A SOON-to-be-published paper from researchers at WA’s Department of Health is providing some surprising insights into the health of Fly-in Fly-out (FIFO) workers.
Dr Sarah Joyce and her colleagues sampled 11,906 WA residents, a group which broke down into 380 FIFO workers, 913 shift workers and 10,613 other employment workers.
Overall, FIFO workers exhibited similar behaviours to shift workers, including higher rates for smoking and drinking than other occupations.
FIFO workers were the heaviest tipplers, with 64.7 per cent consuming more than two drinks per day and roughly a quarter consuming more than four per day. They also drank more often—three times per week as compared to two for shift workers and 2.3 for other workers.
Surprisingly, given they generally had the most physically demanding jobs and highest rates of getting sufficient exercise, FIFO workers were most likely to be classified as overweight or obese, with a whopping 79.3 per cent falling into this category.
Researchers suggest this could be related to the majority having their meals prepared for them, as well as food choices. Insufficient vegetable consumption was found in 87.7 per cent of respondents, while 48.9 per cent didn’t eat enough fruit.
Despite these trends, FIFO workers scored best in several key health areas, coming in with the lowest rates for asthma, respiratory conditions, arthritis and diabetes.
FIFO workers were also less likely to have been injured in a work-related incident over the past 12 months — 24.3 per cent compared to 28.1 per cent for shift workers.
Surprisingly, FIFO workers had significantly lower self-reported mental health problems despite long periods away from family and friends. Researchers suggest this could be because the industry attracts workers prepared for the sacrifices for the job.
As for lifestyle, contrary to the stereotype of the young bloke making his fortune in the mines and spending it on fast cars and bars, FIFOs were the most likely group to be married or in de facto relationships – coming in at 72.2 per cent compared to 62.9 per cent for shift workers and 69.7 per cent for other workers.
FIFO workers were also more likely to live with partners and children and reside in the metropolitan area, using their high incomes to combat Perth’s hefty real estate prices.
In contrast, shift workers were significantly more likely to be from the most disadvantaged socio-economic areas and to reside in non-metropolitan areas.
‘Health behaviours and outcomes associated with Fly-in Fly-out and Shift workers in Western Australia’ will be published in Internal Medicine Journal.