Wellbeing & alcohol & other drug use among construction industry apprentices

August 2017
Pidd, K., Roche, A., Duraisingam, V., Trifonoff, A., & Kostadinov, V. (2017). Wellbeing & alcohol & other drug use among construction industry apprentices. National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction (NCETA). Flinders University, Adelaide, SA.

Following on from its innovative brief psychoskills program to reduce psychological distress and AOD-related harm among commercial cookery apprentices, NCETA applied the program to construction industry apprentices.

 In conducting this research, NCETA:

  1. Assessed the initial level of psychological wellbeing and AOD use among young construction trainees

  2.  Monitored changes to wellbeing and AOD use over the duration of their first year of training (hypothesising that it may deteriorate over time)

  3.  Undertook a randomised controlled trial (RCT) of a brief intervention to improve wellbeing and AOD use patterns.

A total of 169 young South Australian trainee construction workers comprising builders, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, tilers and bricklayers participated in the study. Our findings confirmed previous research that young construction industry workers are a high-risk group for harmful AOD use and poor mental health. Compared to young people the same age and to the national average, the study participants had high to very high levels of AOD use.

We also found that workplace psychosocial factors play both a direct and indirect role in AOD use and mental health, as evidenced by the relationships between workplace bullying, job stress and drug use; and the relationships between workplace bullying, job stress, and psychological distress. While most participants reported quality of life, health and ability to cope with work stress as good/very good, approximately one in seven reported high levels of psychological distress, a quarter experienced high levels of job stress, and 12% high levels of workplace bullying.

During their first year of training, participants experienced a deterioration in their overall health and psychosocial wellbeing with significant increases in job stress, and absenteeism and presenteesim. This suggests that psychosocial wellbeing interventions and harm reduction strategies such as brief interventions, peer interventions and organisational culture change are warranted for this group.

While the RCT did not result in improved outcomes for the intervention group, this study indicates there is nevertheless a need for further examination of the type of targeted, appropriate and supportive interventions that could be developed and implemented for this group of workers.