Report Synopsis

Are we Fit to Farm? Investigating Irish Farmer Health Status and Sustainability

Alison Holmes

Rural population health in Ireland has been identified as having been in steady decline over past 20 years. Non-communicable diseases (NCD) are the leading cause of death in Ireland, accounting for 90% of deaths in 2018 (WHO, 2018). Irish farmers are not exempt from falling victim to these statistics and experience disproportionately high prevalence of cardiac disease, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders and stroke compared to their peers. Recent research by Van Doorne et al., (2017) concluded that Irish farmers are seven times more likely to die from cardiovascular diseases than those with salary paid occupations. Similar studies report very poor health literacy amongst farmers, particularly in relation to nutrition. Poor physical health has been linked to decline in mental health and decreased capacity for resilience. In addition to this, farming has been identified as the most hazardous occupation in Ireland (HSA, 2018). Hence, improving the current status of Irish farmer health has the potential to impact on the sustainability of the farmer, recruitment and retention into farming as a career and improve public perception and the farmer image. This research will provide an insight into current baseline physical health and attitudes toward health and safety amongst Irish farmers and examine how we can take lessons from similar populations at home and abroad in attempt to optimise farmer health.

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