Female FIFO workers handle conditions better than men

THE life of a fly-in, fly-out worker can be tortuous, spending days and nights away from their families, friends and healthy habits.

Unless of course, you're a woman.

New research by a national mental health group reported women FIFO workers enjoyed better general health, better mental health, more lifestyle positives and more lifestyle satisfaction.

The Australasian Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health spent more than 12 months with a FIFO construction operation in Western Australia, operated by contracting giants Thiess.

It already has programs promoting women in its operations and working to ensure the mental health of its workers.

Centre managing director Dr Jennifer Bowers said she was absolutely surprised there was such a significant difference between how men and women coped on these isolated and far flung sites.

"They (women) were more positive in relation to their family and relationships with less family stress."

This is in stark contrast with long-standing research suggesting workers -particularly men - often struggled with depression, isolation, a feeling of disconnection from their families and even obesity.

Dr Bowers said women drank less alcohol and were more likely to exercise while on the sites, two acts that could stem a tide of anxiety or stress.

But until more research is done, women may handle the conditions better, but we are yet to find out why.

Dr Bowers suggested these women may be better communicators and could be more inclined to do detailed planning before leaving the house for the site.

She said her sense was that these findings would apply not just in WA but across all underground, open-cut and gas projects across Queensland, even though this study was done at a construction site.

"My sense is that generally speaking, this will apply across all areas," she said.

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