How is the mental health of rail employees?

By Phil Hibberd, RSSB Engagement Manager for Freight.

In 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic, we ran a survey on the mental wellbeing of rail employees. Nearly 4,000 people responded, and the results have identified key activities which will improve mental health across the industry. The aim of the survey was to examine the prevalence of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorders, in rail employees and determine factors which can improve their mental health. The findings demonstrate an association between several important factors and mental health outcomes across depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorders. More than one in three (43%) respondents met criteria for a clinical mental health condition. Symptoms that are indicative of depression were most frequently reported, with 38% of respondents demonstrating scores in the moderate to severe range. Moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety were reported by 29% of participants.

The results showed poor mental health experienced by rail employees has increased since the Covid-19 pandemic began. This increase is consistent with the trend observed in the general population – moderate-severe depression has increased from 5.6% to 31.6% and moderate-severe anxiety has increased from 6% to 18.8%.

Our results revealed that rail employees experienced 1.5 times higher rate of anxiety compared to the rates seen in the general population. This may be partly due to differences in survey methodology, however this could also be related to the challenges of working in public facing roles and increased pressure during the pandemic. Most staff in public-facing roles (96%) reported having had access to personal protective equipment, which may have helped protect against anxiety in roles with perceived exposure to Covid-19. At the same time, one in three of all participants reported an increase in work pressures during the pandemic.

Of the respondents, 41% reported that they experienced a traumatic event, with 74% describing at least some of these events as work-related. 10% of all participants reported symptoms consistent with a clinical post-traumatic stress disorder, with 7% reporting symptoms consistent with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) and 3% consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is over double the rate found in the general population. The higher rate of C-PTSD is indicative of the impact of repeated exposure to traumatic events, characteristic of trauma-exposed work. What factors impact mental wellbeing? Several factors were found to impact mental wellbeing.

These are shown in the infographic. Click here for more resources and more on how employees can be supported.

If you’d like to know more about the programme, please contact Phil Hibberd at