Background: There is a scarcity of published studies of the effects of cardiac counselling among professional drivers (PD). Aims of the study were: (1) to examine explanatory variables for two classical 'driver' risk factors - body mass index (BMI), and smoking - and to analyse the interrelations among smoking cessation, losing weight and work-related life changes; (2) to assess the effectiveness of risk factor counselling after 6 months, and (3) to gain insight into possible discrepancies between PD perception of needed changes and compliance with the physician's advice.
Methods: There were 4 groups of male PD: 13 with ischemic heart disease, 12 hypertensives, 10 borderline hypertensives and 34 normotensives. Baseline cardiovascular risk factors as well as occupational and behavioral data were assessed via questionnaire. The counselling was aimed at smoking cessation, weight loss and promoting leisure-time physical activity. Qualitative methods were used to assess PD perceptions about the work environment and health promotion.
Results: Baseline smoking intensity was best predicted by the total burden of occupational stress and number of smoking years. Baseline BMI was best predicted by long work hours behind the wheel, low availability of attachment outside work and low self-reported job strain. Self-initiated smoking cessation was best predicted by few smoking years, low coffee intake and admitting fear during driving. Physical activity was significantly increased after 6 months. Losing weight was associated with: quitting or diminishing smoking and making other, work-related, life changes. None of the heavy smokers decreased their daily number of cigarettes after 6 months, although expressing the need to do so in self-generated statements.
Conclusions: Exposure to occupational stressors, mainly, long work hours and the concomitant denial of job strain, in combination with low availability of social attachment outside work, could contribute to maintenance of maladaptive behavior in PD. These findings could serve as a basis for designing standardized intervention trials and suggest that modification of the work environment, with participation of the drivers, is a needed component of such trials. Particular attention should be paid to the length and scheduling of work shifts.