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34rd Annual Conference – Cambridge, UK
3-5 September 2018

Track 6: Mental Health, Stress and Wellbeing in the Construction Industry

Lead: Dingayo Mzyece (dmzyece@brookes.ac.uk)

The problem of mental health, stress and wellbeing in the construction industry has increasingly gained significant attention over the last decade or so (e.g. HSE, 2008). It is surprising that while there are a number of reports (e.g. CIOB, 2006) and anecdotal findings that acknowledge the severity of this problem, there is a relative lack of studies that provide clarity on the underlying causes and correlations between overarching project factors and softer skills that may trigger problems with mental health, stress and wellbeing in the construction industry. In the UK construction sector, for example, figures published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), reveal that between 2011/12 and 2014/15, there were 69,000 work-related reported illnesses, of which 14,000 cases were due to stress, anxiety and depression (HSE, 2015).

While it is common knowledge that mental health is significantly widespread across many occupations other than occupations within the construction industry, it is worth noting that the underlying causes still remain largely unknown. There is also limited knowledge that sheds light on the extent to which the overarching project factors and softer skills trigger mental health, stress and wellbeing in the construction industry. Deeper insight that addresses the implications of these factors and how they manifest in mental health patients will not only increase awareness, but also provide a meaningful approach of how to address these challenges. Often, overarching project factors such as: type, size, duration, construction method/s, procurement and softer skills such as trust, collegiality and camaraderie among others, present complex adversarial correlations given the sometimes unpredictable nature of construction, leading to mental health and stress related illnesses.

Furthermore, the stages of manifestation of mental health and stress related illnesses may occur after several months or years post project completion. Thus, there is a need to undertake more detailed, perhaps longitudinal studies in this area. Collaboration with researchers from the medical field is also particularly welcome. To summarise, the impacts of ill health with reference to mental health, stress and wellbeing is evident in terms of inadequate workmanship, loss of income due to absenteeism from work and perhaps a lack of knowledge transfer from the highly skilled workforce to the less skilled workforce. Mental health problems also severely impede career progression. Recent figures show that mental health issues account for a third of industry’s absenteeism (Anderson, 2017).

As such, the challenges and long term impact on the construction workforce and the industry at large cannot be ignored. This research area will extend research undertaken by Love and Edwards (2005), CIOB (2006), HSE (2007) and Love et al. (2010). Therefore theoretical, methodological and empirical papers are invited in this track to better understand and address problems of mental health, stress and wellbeing in the construction industry. Joint authorship with experts in the medical field is also highly encouraged.


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