Saf Health Work.  2014 Dec;5(4):203-209. 10.1016/

Psychological Distress and Pain Reporting in Australian Coal Miners

  • 1Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, School of Public Health and Social Work, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.


Coal mining is of significant economic importance to the Australian economy. Despite this fact, the related workforce is subjected to a number of psychosocial risks and musculoskeletal injury, and various psychological disorders are common among this population group. Because only limited research has been conducted in this population group, we sought to examine the relationship between physical (pain) and psychological (distress) factors, as well as the effects of various demographic, lifestyle, and fatigue indicators on this relationship.
Coal miners (N = 231) participated in a survey of musculoskeletal pain and distress on-site during their work shifts. Participants also provided demographic information (job type, age, experience in the industry, and body mass index) and responded to questions about exercise and sleep quality (on- and off-shift) as well as physical and mental tiredness after work.
A total of 177 workers (80.5%) reported experiencing pain in at least one region of their body. The majority of the sample population (61.9%) was classified as having low-level distress, 28.4% had scores indicating mild to moderate distress, and 9.6% had scores indicating high levels of distress. Both number of pain regions and job type (being an operator) significantly predicted distress. Higher distress score was also associated with greater absenteeism in workers who reported lower back pain. In addition, perceived sleep quality during work periods partially mediated the relationship between pain and distress.
The study findings support the existence of widespread musculoskeletal pain among the coal-mining workforce, and this pain is associated with increased psychological distress. Operators (truck drivers) and workers reporting poor sleep quality during work periods are most likely to report increased distress, which highlights the importance of supporting the mining workforce for sustained productivity.


distress; mining; musculoskeletal pain; occupational health
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