Psychological distress in remote mining and construction workers in Australia

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

The Medical Journal of Australia


Australasian Medical Publishing Company Ltd

Place of Publication



School of Science




Bowers, J., Lo, J., Miller, P., Mawren, D., & Jones, B. (2018). Psychological distress in remote mining and construction workers in Australia. The Medical Journal of Australia, 208(9), 391-397. Available here.


Objectives: To assess the prevalence and correlates of psychological distress in a sample of remote mining and construction workers in Australia. Design, setting: A cross-sectional, anonymous Wellbeing and Lifestyle Survey at ten mining sites in South Australia and Western Australia, administered at meetings held during 2013-2015. Participants: 1124 employees at remote construction, and open cut and underground mining sites completed the survey. Main outcome measures: General psychological distress (Kessler Psychological Distress Scale, K10) and self-reported overall mental health status; work, lifestyle and family factors correlated with level of psychological distress. Results: The final sample comprised 1124 workers; 93.5% were men, 63% were aged 25-44 years. 311 respondents (28%) had K10 scores indicating high/very high psychological distress, compared with 10.8% for Australia overall. The most frequently reported stressors were missing special events (86%), relationship problems with partners (68%), financial stress (62%), shift rosters (62%), and social isolation (60%). High psychological distress was significantly more likely in workers aged 25-34 years (v ≥ 55 years: odds ratio [OR], 3.2; P = 0.001) and workers on a 2 weeks on/1 week off roster (v 4 weeks on/1 week off: OR, 2.4; P < 0.001). Workers who were very or extremely stressed by their assigned tasks or job (OR, 6.2; P = 0.004), their current relationship (OR, 8.2; P < 0.001), or their financial situation (OR, 6.0; P < 0.001) were significantly more likely to have high/very high K10 scores than those not stressed by these factors. Workers who reported stress related to stigmatisation of mental health problems were at the greatest risk of high/very high psychological distress (v not stressed: OR, 23.5; P < 0.001). Conclusions: Psychological distress is significantly more prevalent in the remote mining and construction workforce than in the overall Australian population. The factors that contribute to mental ill health in these workers need to be addressed, and the stigma associated with mental health problems reduced.



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