Farmers have ‘high levels of preventable ill health’

Farmers as an occupational group have been identified with having high levels of preventable ill health, according to Teagasc.

The agricultural authority highlighted the issue as part of a best practice guide for health and safety on sheep farms today (Friday, September 25).

Ill health affects quality of life and a person’s capacity to farm effectively, the agricultural extension agency says.

More awareness of health promotion practices are needed among the farming community, Teagasc says.

Cardiovascular disease

A major Irish study has found that 74% of male farmers have four, or more, risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

This means they are three times more likely to have an acute cardiac event (stroke or heart attack) compared to those with fewer risk factors.

Up to 75% of all farmers participating in the research were advised to visit their GP to get further support and advice.

Low back pain

A further Irish study indicated that low back pain (LBP) was the most prevalent physical complaint occurring with 28% of farmers.

As LBP-associated disability can lead to on-going pain and reduced capacity to be physically active it has been shown to be associated with other health conditions like cardiovascular disease.

Farmers should reduce risk factors for LBP including body weight, devising farm systems which minimise manual handling (MH) and using the correct techniques for MH.