Manage your Health - It's Essential for Lifestyle and to Farm Effectively
Health is essential for your lifestyle and to farm effectively. Poor health is associated with increased farm injuries and lowered farm income due to being less able to farm effectively. This is why Teagasc promotes the ‘Total Worker Health' model in its Statement of Strategy.
In the longer term, health is determined by your lifestyle practices – such as having a regular health check, watching your diet and weight, taking the right kind of exercise, practicing sun smart skin protecting and so on. In other words, a significant component of health is within a person’s own control. The younger one adopts healthy practices the better.
However, the national study has shown that farmers experience five times higher cardiovascular, 3 times higher cancer and 7 times higher farm injury mortality in the working age range than ‘white collar’ workers. Clearly, there is misperception that farmers as an occupational group are healthy and more work is needed to cut the consequences of ill health.
A study by Teagasc with National Centre for Men’s Health, IT Carlow, Waterford Institute of Technology and the UCD School of Public Health indicates that farmers adopt health practices as they get older. However, as many health conditions can progress gradually, the sooner health adoption takes place the more beneficial the outcome. An article describing the research carried out is available in the TResearch magazine at:
Exercise and Diet
While farmers get many steps, they may not be sufficient for cardiovascular exercise. A recent NUIG study found that farmers need more moderate-vigorous intensity physical activity (MVPA). Always seek healthcare advice before increasing your exercise routine.
An Irish study on farmers diets published this week shows that that 62% of farmers in the study were overweight/obese. Internationally, overweight/ obesity is an increasing public health issue. Thirty one percent of farmers in the study were actively trying to lose weight while a further 15% were advised by a doctor to lose weight. This information indicates that a large proportion of farmers are aware of the diet issue and are seeking to address it.
The study results revealed that a high proportion of farmer’s dietary habits consisted of a low intake of fruit and vegetables, dairy products and fish and a high intake of meat, fried foods, salt, and sugary and/or salty snacks. A major finding of the study was that almost one in four farmers reporting not having consumed any fruit or vegetable in the previous day. Younger farmers, less than 45 years of age, were significantly more likely to report consumption of processed meats on most days of the week
Irish farmers undoubtedly produce foods with health benefits, however, little home consumption of own farm produced food now occurs and farm families source foods in supermarket and food outlets. Consult the HSE Guidance ‘How to Eat Well’ for comprehensive guidance on healthy eating.
Being overweight/ obese is a major public health issue worldwide and is a recognized risk factor for non-communicable diseases such as CVD, certain cancers and more recently for COVID-19 disease severity. It is also a confounding risk factor for occupational injury, musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and depression.
The summer and autumn time are ideal times for farmers and their families to get away from the farm and engage in exercise and leisure activities. It is also a good time to get routine maintenance done around the farm such as hanging gates and improving farm tidiness. This in turn will make farm work easier and more enjoyable later in the year.
If you liked this article you might also like the paper ‘Investigating the Dietary Habits of Male Irish Farmers to Prevent Mortality and Morbidity’.
Also read the Irish Health Booklet for Farmers ‘Staying Fit for Farming’.
Prepared by Dr John McNamara, Teagasc Health & Safety Specialist.
For further Farm Safety information check out the Farm Safety Week Section on the Teagasc Website.