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Are professional drivers in Gävleborg as fit as they appear?
Research at the University of Gävle shows that all too many professional drivers have problems. Problems with their vision and aching necks and shoulders, as well as other symptoms of a pressured work situation.
How fit are they really?
Research colleagues Leah Emegwa and Hans Richter at the University of Gävle have started a study to find out how fit our professional drivers are.
“Even if many professional drivers in Gävleborg seem to be fit, and are notably physically active, all too many declare that they suffer from impaired vision, shoulder and neck problems, and reveal further symptoms of a work situation under pressure,” says Hans Richter.
Part of the study deals with the frequency of the sight problems and investigates if they can be connected to aching muscles in the neck or shoulders; the other part deals with the drivers’ quality of life.
Vision and driving
Eight out of ten drivers are aware that driving requires good eyesight. About a fifth indicate that sometimes they experience "double vision" or "blurred vision".
Almost half of the drivers state that they have not tested their eyesight in the last two years, and as many (forty four percent) have never had their eyes tested.
“There seem to be many relatively simple measures that can be taken, in order to improve vision, for example eye tests with corrective glasses,” according to Hans Richter och Leah Emegwa.
This is also a question of safety as the demands on vision made on drivers driving in the dark, together with mental or physical fatigue, often to a deadline, are great.
Pain and driving
When working, one in four drivers experienced simultaneous problems with "pain", "pins and needles", or "numbness" in their muscles, and massaged or kneaded them to be able to keep on driving.
Every fifth driver mentioned that they were sometimes forced to cut short their driving due to muscle pain.
The researchers found, interestingly enough, that the muscular problems were associated with vision. Those who specified problems with double vision or blurred vision were more likely to report that they also had muscular problems in their neck/shoulder.
“From our previous research we know that strain on the eyesight, which develops when high demands are made, as in the case of computer users, is often the source of pain in the necks and shoulders.
Therefore it is not unreasonable to suspect that professional drivers’ neck problems are related to vision.
Notably physically active
Many of the drivers considered themselves fit. However, two thirds had a BMI that indicated overweight or obesity, despite the fact that those same individuals were physically active at least once a week. High BMI together with a lack of physical activity was connected to a lower quality of life.
This physical activity could indicate an interest in health, and a fertile ground for improving their vision and furthermore their muscular and skeletal fitness and quality of life.
Leah and Hans consider that the fields of visual/occupational ergonomics and public health could benefit a great deal from this interdisciplinary study.
“We have significant mutual interests and research has a lot to gain from interdisciplinary collaboration. A completed study is available. At the moment we are writing papers based on this material as well as planning for future studies.”
Even if this project originally concerns professional drivers the results of the study are probably relevant for ordinary long distance drivers in the dark autumn weather.
The project has been financed by the Faculty of Health and Occupational Studies at the University of Gävle.
For further information please contact:
Leah Emegwa, registered optometrist, PhD., lecturer in Public Health Sciences at the University of Gävle
Tel: 026 64 50 82
Hans Olof Richter, docent, lecturer in Occupational Health Sciences at the University of Gävle
Tel: 026 648 722
Text: Douglas Öhrbom