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A major new study reveals “alarming” levels of physical and mental health problems among farmers and farm workers.

A survey of thousands of people who live and work in agriculture shows that most feel pain, mobility problems and anxiety and depression than the general population.

Experts say their study provides “compelling evidence” of the need to address physical and mental health issues in agricultural industry to ensure better welfare and ensure the future sustainability of food production in the UK.

They surveyed 15,296 people living and working in agriculture in England and Wales about their health and well-being.

A total of 24 percent of respondents reported problems with mobility, 21 percent reported problems with performing their usual activities; 52 percent reported moderate to severe problems with pain/discomfort; and 31 percent reported problems with anxiety/depression.

Women report fewer problems with mobility, self-serviceperformance of usual activities and pain/discomfort than men, but more problems with anxiety/depression.

A total of 64 percent of respondents said they had experienced farm-related “muscle/joint pain, etc.,” and 16 percent had suffered a non-fatal injury in the past five years.

The research, by Rebecca Wheeler and Matt Lobley of the University of Exeter, is published in the journal BMC Public Health.

Dr Wheeler said: “Obviously during the pandemic we interviewed people and the coronavirus had an impact, but that doesn’t account for all the differences we found. This is part of the evidence for the significant mental and physical health that is a growing problem among farmers and the connection to personal, family and business problems commonly faced by members of this community.

“The high levels of anxiety/depression among working-age people in our sample may be explained by the many causes of farm and business-related stress reported by respondents, including workload, regulatory and paperwork-related issues, bad weatherdisease, social isolation and maintaining economic viability’.

Respondents report fewer problems with mobility and self-care than the wider population, particularly in older age groups. This may indicate that agricultural work contributes positively physical training later in life, but this may also be a consequence of requiring a certain level of fitness to remain in agriculture.

Professor Lobley said: “This particular piece of research is part of a wider body of work undertaken by the CRPR in recent years and provides further compelling evidence for the need to understand and address both the physical and mental health problems among people who live and work in agriculture. The results should be seen as imperative for action, as ultimately a resilient and sustainable food system requires a healthy agricultural workforce capable of maintaining and improving production without harming themselves and their families.”

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Additional information:
Rebecca Wheeler et al. Health-related quality of life in rural England and Wales: results from the EQ-5D-3L self-report questionnaire, BMC Public Health (2022). DOI: 10.1186/s12889-022-13790-w

Citation: Major new study shows ‘worrying’ levels of physical and mental health problems among farmers and farmworkers (2022, October 12) Retrieved October 12, 2022 from -physical-mental -health-problems.html

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