Age profile of farmers adds to Covid-19 risk – research

New research has outlined the health risks from Covid-19 for different sectors of the economy, including farmers and agricultural workers.

The research, from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRI), has found that the age profile of farmers is a notable risk factor, with 62.8% of farmers and persons in related trades being over the age of 50.

As a proportion of workers in the sector, this figure is 10 percentage points more than the sector with the second highest level of workers over 50 – housekeeping and related services.

The research – released today, Tuesday, July 28 – looks at three factors of Covid-19 risk: vulnerable chronic illness; age; and living in deprived areas.

Looking at the factor of chronic illness that would be vulnerable to Covid-19, around one-fifth of workers in agriculture and related trades – 19.5% – were found to suffer from such illnesses.

These illnesses include: Asthma; chronic lung disease; diabetes; heart attack/congestive heart failure; high blood pressure; cancer; and kidney problems.

The ESRI report also took data from England and Wales that outlines the occupation breakdown for people who have died from Covid-19 in those countries (there is no such data available for Covid-19 deaths in Ireland).

Among the 10 occupations that have seen the most Covid-19 related deaths in England and Wales, agriculture and related activities does not feature.

The ESRI outlines that the reason for this is the nature of farm work – i.e. less exposure to other people or crowds – and the closure or modification of certain activities, such as marts. This offsets risk to farmers and workers in the sector.

As well as that, there has been no evidence here in Ireland of farmers experiencing higher rates of Covid-19 infection, despite the fact that they continued to work through the height of the lockdown as essential workers.