A new study has reviewed the mental health and wellbeing concerns of FIFO workers and their partners in Australia.

Shifting from FIFO life requires major lifestyle changes including a likely large reduction of salary – barriers which FIFO workers and their partners report create feelings of being trapped.

Workers said absence from their family created relationship strains beyond feelings of loneliness, including frustration at missing out on significant family events and being unable to respond to domestic emergencies.

Study author Kristie-Lee Alfrey from CQUniversity said the surveyed FIFO workers reveal serious difficulties in adjusting between their on-shift and off-shift lives.

“One respondent summed up the challenge of maintaining bravado in a male-dominated industry and then moving home to become a supportive, caring husband,” Ms Alfrey said.

“Partners often face an extra burden of domestic duties and many are effectively ‘single mums’ during the on-shift periods.

“Even after returning home, workers face a process of renegotiating domestic roles and responsibilities.”

Workers and partners felt that FIFO put considerable strain on relationships due to physical separation and a sense of psychological distance.

Some survey participants were concerned about their partner’s fidelity while others experienced anxiety and depression due to feelings of isolation.

“Workers and partners generally felt unsupported in negotiating health and wellbeing problems,” Ms Alfrey says.

“Due to stigmas surrounding mental health issues in mining, some workers were concerned that they would have a ‘black mark’ on their work record if they drew on employer-provided support services.

“We recommend that FIFO employers should emphasise the importance of good mental health and wellbeing, maintain transparency regarding potential challenges, and offer professional support for managing multiple social roles and effective communication.”

The full report is accessible here.