You may already know that a few days ago, the world celebrated International Men’s Day 2019. (Now, while that might not sound like it has much to do with cheap van deals, bear with us!) While IMD has several objectives, one of its key focuses this year involved highlighting the mental health issues that millions of men face, and how they feel unable to talk about them.

With that in mind, the recent research released by Mercedes-Benz feels especially relevant. The company found that over half of van drivers (who tend to be predominantly male) experience signs of depression in the darker, colder months, with almost one in three of them suffering from symptoms akin to Seasonal Affective Disorder, informally known as SAD. So what exactly causes these issues, and what can you do to help tackle the problem?

What did Mercedes-Benz find out?

To give you a quick rundown, the manufacturer surveyed over 2000 drivers, and found that:

  • 30% of the respondents suffered from SAD
  • 83% said they felt more tired in winter
  • 48% admitted to nearly falling asleep at the wheel.

8 in 10 of them feel more tired in the autumn and winter, with their physical and mental energy experiencing a notable drop since the summer. In addition, half of them said they regularly deal with low moods, including irritability and feelings of despair. These are all notable symptoms of SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s sometimes informally known as ‘winter depression’, because the negative feelings associated with it often become more severe in the winter months.

SAD is sometimes written off as trivial by members of the general public – after all, they say, it’s normal to feel a bit glum during winter. However, evidence suggests that SAD is a serious problem, especially for tradesmen like van drivers. Ultimately, it can lead to lethargy, reduced concentration (dangerous for a professional driver), and even full-on clinical depression.

Why are van drivers so affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder?

We should start by saying that the term van driver encompasses a wide range of professions and trades, all of which may use their vans to various degrees. These professions range from delivery drivers and couriers to electricians and construction workers. However, despite the differences in their trades, they all tend to share certain traits which can make them vulnerable to Seasonal Affective Disorder. Many are prone to working long hours, with the sky dark at both the start and finish of their day.

Their hours can also be irregular, with randomly assigned breaks, early starts and late finishes all interfering with their circadian rhythm (their natural body clock). This can often result in being tired and drowsy at the height of the working day, while finding themselves restless and worried during the evenings.

Finally, it can be a lonely job, with long hours spent on the road cooped up in their vans, without any other human contact. Without conversation and company to distract them, many van drivers can become lost in their own thoughts, which gives time and space for worries and stresses to multiply.

What can you do about the mental health of van drivers this winter?

While it’s a problem without one easy solution, the good news is that there are always things you can do, whether you’re a van driver’s employer, friend, or relative – or even a van driver yourself.

If you’re an employer, make sure that you’ve got systems or processes in place to care for your employees, and give them an outlet to express their feelings and frustrations. Larger companies may be able to create dedicated departments for this, with dedicated staff and assigned rooms where employees can go and feel safe as they discuss their feelings. If you run a smaller company, you might not have the resources for all that, but the important thing is that you communicate to your employees that they can always be open with you about when the job is getting too stressful.

If you’re a van driver yourself, on the other hand, make sure you’re taking advantage of those systems and communication channels. If none exist, perhaps consider how you can ask for them. Don’t forget, employers have a legal responsibility to care for their employees while they’re in the workplace, and that includes any stress or mental health issues that may be related to the job. While you’re at it, make sure you seek help from your family, friends or colleagues, and you can always talk to your GP if things get too tough.

Whether you’re an employee or an employer, always make sure you’re receptive to others, and that you take the time to listen to anyone who’s having a rough time of it. Don’t worry about trying to provide solutions to impossible problems – just make sure you’re there to hear their concerns. You might be surprised at the difference just a short conversation can make.

Finally, it’s also worth considering the other, most crucial risk that Mercedes-Benz’s survey highlighted, which is the danger that overtiredness poses to other road users. With that in mind, whatever your profession, make sure you’re getting enough sleep. It sounds simple but it’s hugely important, and not everyone does it. The National Sleep Foundation recommends getting at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night if possible. If that’s not feasible (and some drivers may well find it’s not), then the NSF instead recommends taking regular breaks of between 15 to 45 minutes, and even taking a quick nap when safely parked. While that might not sound like an ideal scenario, it’s far better than falling asleep at the wheel!

If you’re suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, you may also find it helpful to consult the SAD section on MIND, the UK leading national mental health charity. We’ll leave the further specifics to them – we’re not mental health experts here at Van Discount. What we can provide, though, are the UK’s best new van deals from leading makes and manufacturers – including Peugeot, Toyota and Volkswagen. If you’re in the market for cheap van deals, why not give us a call on 01282 872 530? We’re here to help!