Driving to Health: A mental health app for taxi drivers

Project Details

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Over 12,000 people, mainly men, work as taxi drivers in the Melbourne metropolitan region. Over 90% of drivers are born in a non-English speaking country with roughly 50% having settled in Australia in the last 10 years. Our recently completed, world-first research on the mental health of taxi drivers found that 62% have high or very high psychological distress, a rate of distress five times higher than other Australian men. They also have a much greater rate of exposure to traumatic events: 29% have been mugged, held up or threatened with a weapon and 15% have been badly beaten up. Although the mental health status of taxi drivers is extremely poor relatively few seek help from health services where they could receive treatment. Mobile technologies may be a way to provide psychological support for men who work as taxi drivers, especially for those who do not traditionally seek help due to mental health stigma or cultural barriers around seeking help.

We have developed a mobile app called Driving to Health which is designed to increase taxi drivers’ use of self-help strategies for psychological wellbeing and to encourage help-seeking among drivers with a high psychological distress. The current study aims to gather feedback from drivers that will allow us to optimise the Driving to Health app. Optimisation is a process in which different elements of an intervention are tested to identify what works and what does not, including methods of recruitment, take up / adherence to the intervention, and potential effectiveness of the intervention. Key questions are to test whether the app reaches the target audience, is used by taxi drivers, is acceptable to taxi drivers and is potentially clinically effective in reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety or stress and increasing intentions to seek help. The results of this study will inform decisions around whether to proceed to a fully powered randomised controlled trial of the app. If the Driving to Health app is effective in improving mental health among taxi drivers it can be rolled out to the more than 60,000 people who work as taxi drivers across Australia and to the growing numbers of people working for other hire car services.


Dr Sandra Davidson, Principal Investigator, Department of General Practice (University of Melbourne)

Associate Professor Daryl Wade, Department of Psychiatry (University of Melbourne) & Phoenix Australia

Dr Greg Wadley, Engineering: Computing and Information Systems (University of Melbourne)

Associate Professor Nicola Reavley, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health (University of Melbourne)

Dr Susie Fletcher, Department of General Practice (University of Melbourne)

Professor Jane Gunn, Department of General Practice (University of Melbourne)


Shepherd Foundation

NHMRC Early Career Fellowship (S Davidson)

Melbourne Networked Society Institute (MNSI)

Research Outcomes

Trauma, Psychological Distress and Unmet Mental Health Needs Among an Immigrant Occupational Group – Taxi Drivers. Davidson, G Wadley, J Gunn, S Fletcher, T Soderlund. NAPCRG Annual Meeting, Nov 2017 Montreal.

Research Group

Integrated Mental Health

Faculty Research Themes


School Research Themes

Neuroscience & Psychiatry

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact the research group leader.

Department / Centre

General Practice

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