A study finds worrying levels of mental health problems among farmers and agricultural workers, according to a team of researchers from the University of Exeter, UK. The survey shows that thousands of people working or living on farms experience higher levels of pain, mobility problems, anxiety, and depression than the general population.
With these results, the authors suggest that there is a strong need to tackle physical and mental health issues in these people to ensure better well-being and protect the future sustainability of UK food production.
The team asked over 15,000 people living and working in agriculture in England and Wales about their health and well-being. The results showed that 52% of participants are experiencing pain, 31% are suffering from anxiety and depression, 24% have problems with mobility, and 21% struggle with their daily activities. Women reported fewer problems with mobility and pain but experienced more issues with anxiety and depression.
“Clearly, we surveyed people during the pandemic, and coronavirus has had an impact, but this doesn’t account for all of the disparities we found. This is part of a growing body of evidence about the significant mental and physical health problems among farmers and the link with personal, family, and business-related challenges commonly faced by members of this community,” said Dr. Rebecca Wheeler from the University of Exeter. “The high levels of self-reported anxiety/depression among working-aged people in our sample might be explained by the numerous drivers of farm and business-related stress reported by respondents, including those associated with workload, regulatory demands and paperwork, bad weather, disease, social isolation and maintaining economic viability.”
“This particular piece of research forms part of a larger body of work conducted by the CRPR in recent years and provides further compelling evidence of the need to understand and address both physical and mental health issues among people living and working in agriculture. The results should be seen as an imperative for action as, ultimately, a sustainable and resilient food system requires a healthy agricultural workforce able to maintain and improve production without detriment to themselves and their families,” concluded Professor Matt Lobley.
Wheeler, R., Lobley, M. Health-related quality of life within agriculture in England and Wales: results from a EQ-5D-3L self-report questionnaire. BMC Public Health 22, 1395 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-022-13790-w