Summary

Lorry drivers are at an increased risk of developing multiple chronic diseases including obesity, heart disease, cancer and diabetes due to high levels of physical inactivity, long periods of uninterrupted sedentary behaviour and poor diet quality(1,2). The latest census data estimates that there are approximately 8,000 lorry drivers residing in Northern Ireland and lorry driving has been described as working in an ‘active living and healthy diet desert’(3). Often drivers work long hours, predominantly spent sitting, in unsupportive physical environments which restrict the time available to effectively manage energy balance through regular physical activity and healthy eating(4). A recent study of 159 lorry drivers in England found that 84% were obese and 87% were physically inactive(5). In addition, lorry drivers accumulated a total of 13 hours sitting time in an average working day(5).  While no data exists for lorry drivers in the UK and Ireland, in the US, it is estimated that life expectancy for lorry drivers is 16 years lower than that of the general population(6). However, as a population group they have been overlooked in terms of research on effective health promotion interventions. Feasible effective occupational interventions are urgently required to improve the health and wellbeing of lorry drivers.

In addition to a systematic review of existing interventions, the current project will consist of three distinct yet complementary studies:

Study 1:

A cross-sectional study of the health and wellbeing of lorry drivers The aim of this study is to investigate levels of physical activity, sedentary behaviour and dietary intake of lorry drivers across NI. The PhD researcher will recruit a representative sample and undertake data collection, analysis and write up. Data to be collected will include but is not limited to blood pressure, anthropometry, physical activity, sedentary behaviour and dietary intake.

Study 2:

Factors affecting the health and wellbeing of lorry drivers: A qualitative analysis Structured interviews will be undertaken with lorry drivers and stakeholders to gain an understanding of the factors that affect health and wellbeing. Information will be obtained on access to leisure and cooking facilities, the challenges of leading an active lifestyle while “on the road” and the acceptability of health interventions.

Study 3:

The effectiveness of a health promotion intervention on levels of physical activity and dietary intake of lorry drivers. Based on existing evidence and the findings of study one and two and in collaboration with the supervisory team, the PhD researcher will develop and deliver a health promotion intervention for lorry drivers in NI.

This PhD will be based at the Magee campus.

References:

1. Sieber et al. (2014) Am J Ind Med. 57, 615-626.

2. Sangaleti et al. (2014) BMC Public Health. 14, 1063.

3. Apostolopoulos et al. (2012) J Phys Act Health. 9, 259-269.

4. Gilson et al. (2017) BMC Public Health. 17, 467.

5. Varela-Mato et al. (2017) BMJ Open. 7, e013162.

6. Saltzman & Belzer (2007) Truck Driver Occupational Safety & Health Conference and Selective Literature Review. Available at: https://stacks.cdc.gov/view/cdc/6877.


Essential criteria

  • To hold, or expect to achieve by 15 August, an Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC) in a related or cognate field.
  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • First Class Honours (1st) Degree
  • Masters at 65%
  • Completion of Masters at a level equivalent to commendation or distinction at Ulster
  • Practice-based research experience and/or dissemination
  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Work experience relevant to the proposed project
  • Publications - peer-reviewed
  • Experience of presentation of research findings
  • Use of personal initiative as evidenced by record of work above that normally expected at career stage.

    The University offers the following awards to support PhD study and applications are invited from UK, EU and overseas for the following levels of support:

    Vice Chancellors Research Studentship (VCRS)

    Full award (full-time PhD fees + DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £15,000 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Bursary (VCRB)

    Part award (full-time PhD fees + 50% DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £7,500 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fees Bursary (VCRFB)

    Fees only award (PhD fees + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Department for the Economy (DFE)

    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £15,285 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fee’s component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided). For Non-EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK. This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Due consideration should be given to financing your studies; for further information on cost of living etc. please refer to: www.ulster.ac.uk/doctoralcollege/postgraduate-research/fees-and-funding/financing-your-studies



The Doctoral College at Ulster University


Reviews

Profile picture of Joshua Williamson

My research examined the ability of exercise to inflict damage to DNA and other biologically important structures. During my PhD I had the pleasure of being supervised by Prof Gareth Davison and Dr Ciara Hughes. Pursuing a PhD was never a goal from the outset of my academic career - I wanted to be a PE teacher and completed my BSc in Sport and Exercise Science. However, I carried on with my studies and completed a MSc in Sports Nutrition before enrolling in my PhD.If I could give advice to any new graduate student, it would be the nature of research means that things will not always go according to plan. Keep calm, take a break and then carry on. Have a life outside work. Although your lab group is like your work family, it’s great for your mental health to be able to escape work especially when things don't go to plan.

Joshua Williamson - PhD in Sports Science