Evidence regarding the extent of mental health problems and the associated characteristics within an employee population is necessary to inform appropriate and tailored workplace mental health programs. Mental health within male dominated industries (such as mining) has received recent public attention, chiefly through observations regarding suicide in such populations in Australia and internationally. Currently there is limited empirical evidence regarding the mental health needs in the mining industry as an exemplar of a male dominated workforce, and the relative contribution to such problems of individual, socio-economic and workplace factors. This study aimed to investigate the mental health and associated characteristics among employees in the Australian coal mining industry with a specific focus on identifying modifiable work characteristics.
A cross-sectional study was conducted among employees (n = 1457) across eight coal mines stratified by key mine characteristics (state, mine type and employee commute arrangements). Participants completed measures of psychological distress (K10+) and key variables across four categories (socio-demographic characteristics, health history, current health behaviours, work attitudes and characteristics).
Psychological distress levels within this sample were significantly higher in comparison with a community sample of employed Australians. The following factors contributed significantly to levels of psychological distress using hierarchical linear regression analysis: lower social networks; a past history of depression, anxiety or drug/alcohol problems; high recent alcohol use; work role (managers) and a set of work characteristics (level of satisfaction with work, financial factors and job insecurity; perception of lower workplace support for people with mental health problems.
This is the first study to examine the characteristics associated with mental health problems in the Australian coal mining industry. The findings indicate the salience of mental health needs in this population, and the associated interplay of personal, social and work characteristics. The work characteristics associated with psychological distress are modifiable and can guide an industry response, as well as help inform the understanding of the role of workplace factors in mental health problems in a male dominated workforce more generally.