Far from Home, Close to Help
Fly-in, fly-out work has become an integral part of Australia’s resources boom. Men and women across Australia are leaving their friends and families for extended periods of time to undertake skilled labour work in some of our country’s most remote locations.
While ‘FIFO life’ has a lot of benefits, workers also face a number of unique struggles.
Prolonged separation from family and friends, isolation, loneliness and physical fatigue are just some of the most common challenges faced by FIFO workers. With a growing number of Australians choosing to undertake this type of work (FIFO numbers have doubled in the past decade), the health and wellbeing of workers has never been so important.
Here are some of the biggest health challenges facing FIFO workers:
Mental Health Problems
Extended periods away from family and friends means that FIFO workers often miss out on important family events, birthdays and anniversaries. These recurring absences can take a toll on workers’ relationships and mental health.
A 2018 study published in the Medical Journal of Australia found that 30 percent of FIFO workers suffer from high or very high levels of psychological distress*.
In 2013 the Australian government ordered an inquiry into the mental health effects of fly-in, fly-out work, finding that FIFO workers are more likely to experience anxiety and depression than employees in other industries. FIFO workers are also less likely to seek help for mental health problems, due to high levels of self-stigma and a perceived lack of support.
The government inquiry recommended that workers increase their use of telehealth support services such as Docto. With online specialist doctors available at any time of the day or night, from any location, Docto specialists can provide remote workers with the confidential medical support they need.
Alcohol and Drug Abuse
When it comes to drug and alcohol testing, employees in the mining sector receive a high level of scrutiny, with mandatory testing for employees. While it is reported that only 12 percent of workers in the mining industry engage in illicit drug use, there is a higher than average rate of short term risky drinking: 21.9 percent of FIFO workers consume high levels of alcohol at least monthly.
A number of lifestyle factors predispose FIFO workers to a higher than average alcohol intake. Employees are mostly male and often undertake work in isolated environments lacking in infrastructure and entertainment. Workers frequently endure long, irregular hours and often report feelings of boredom. Co-workers commonly use alcohol to socialise, which adds to the problem.
Treatment for alcohol problems can involve counselling, medication or a combination of both. Men often find it particularly difficult to seek help for alcohol dependency. By speaking to a doctor via secure online chat or video call, FIFO workers can gain access to convenient and easily accessible healthcare support from the privacy of their own home or accommodation.
Poor mental health, drug and alcohol problems, obesity and an increase in sexually transmitted diseases are just a few of the health problems facing FIFO workers. With the industry contributing significant amounts to the Australian economy, it is important that we take care of our fly-in, fly-out workers.
Docto is able to provide specialist medical care to remote workers at any time of the day or night, from any smartphone or connected device. Australia’s first online hospital, Docto provides general medical advice as well as expert medical opinions from hand-picked, highly trained medical specialists.
Delivering medical care when and where it is needed most, Docto is committed to ensuring that all Australians have access to high quality, affordable and accessible specialist healthcare – regardless of their location.
See how Docto can take care of your FIFO company workers here: Docto for Business