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Working nights and lower leisure-time physical activity associate with chronic pain in Southern African truck drivers

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posted on 22.07.2020 by Antonia Wadley, Stella Iacovides, Johanna Roche, Karine Scheuermaier, WD Francois Venter, Alinda G. Vos, Samanta T. Lalla-Edward



Globally the trucking industry employs millions of people. Recently the prevalence of chronic pain in Southern African truck drivers was reported at 10%. We investigated factors associated with chronic pain in truck drivers including mental health, physical activity, and sleep, as no study has done so.


Southern African truck drivers were recruited at truck stops in Gauteng and Free State Provinces, South Africa (n=614). Chronic pain was defined as pain present for at least the last three months. Depressive symptoms were assessed with the Patient Health Questionnaire-9, post-traumatic stress disorder with the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5), exposure to traumatic events with the Life Events Checklist-5 (LEC-5) and daytime sleepiness with the Epworth Sleepiness Scale. Sleep quality was measured on a four-point Likert scale. Leisure-time physical activity was measured using the Godin-Shephard leisure-time physical activity questionnaire. Associations between these factors, demographic factors and chronic pain were investigated.


Six hundred and fourteen male truck drivers were recruited. Multivariate analysis showed that working ≥ 2 nights/week (OR=2.68, 95% CI=1.55-4.68) was associated with chronic pain and physical activity was protective (OR=0.97, 95% CI 0.95-0.98). In an exploratory analysis, greater depressive symptoms (p=0.004), daytime sleepiness (p=0.01) and worse sleep quality (p=0.001) was associated with working ≥ 2 nights/week. Lower leisure-time physical activity was associated with worse sleep quality (p=0.006), but not daytime sleepiness or depressive symptoms (p>0.05).


There is a clear relationship between working nights and activity levels, and chronic pain, sleep quality, and depression in truck drivers.


This work was funded by North Star Alliance through a research and implementation grant received from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands managed by the Royal Dutch Embassy of Mozambique. The Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development and Wits RHI held separate contracts with North Star Alliance (AIGHD’s grant reference: 0068 North Star – NSCDP; RHI’s grant number: D1404070).