Understanding the health of lorry drivers in context: a critical discourse analysis

This paper moves beyond previous attempts to understand health problems in the lives of professional lorry drivers by placing the study of drivers’ health in a wider social and cultural context. A combination of methods including focus groups, interviews and observations were used to collect data from a group of 24 lorry drivers working at a large transport company in the UK. Employing a critical discourse analysis, we identified the dominant discourses and subject positions shaping the formation of drivers’ health and lifestyle choices. This analysis was systematically combined with an exploration of the gendered ways in which an almost exclusively male workforce talked about health. Findings revealed that drivers were constituted within a neoliberal economic discourse, which is reflective of the broader social structure, and which partly restricted drivers’ opportunities for healthy living. Concurrently, drivers adopted the subject position of “average man” as a way of defending their personal and masculine status in regards to health, and to justify jettisoning approaches to healthy living that were deemed too extreme or irrational in the face of the constraints of their working lives. Suggestions for driver health promotion include refocusing on the social and cultural – rather than individual – underpinnings of driver health issues, and a move away from moralistic approaches to health promotion.