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Study Highlights Farm Factors Causing Mental Distress

WHO World Mental Health Day 2016: Monday, October 10th 2016

A recent joint study among dairy farmers conducted by Teagasc, National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG) and University of Limerick (UL) indicates that on-going mental distress leads to anxiety and depression. Mental distress also leads to increased expectation of accidental injury.

The study also indicates that mental distress from farming can arise from on-going work time pressure, bureaucracy, financial pressure, work unpredictability and the presence of farm hazards.

From a positive perspective, the study shows that social support has a positive influence on reducing mental distress.

The study follows a Health and Safety Authority commissioned report in 2013 which indicated that a higher percentage of the farming population suffered from poor wellbeing (16%) than the general Irish population (12%).

The study findings are published in the Open Access Journal, ‘Frontiers in Public Health-Occupational Health and Safety’ and are also featured in the current issue of Teagasc’s Research and Innovation magazine, TResearch.

Dr Denis O’Hora of the School of Psychology, NUIG, a co-author of the study, stated that it provides initial evidence that farm stress and, in particular, financial stress, may contribute to increased vulnerability of farmers, to farm accidents. Farmers and their families need to be on the lookout for signs of mental distress, and to seek help when needed. He added that, when farmers actively participate in the local community, this develops a social support network that can build and protect positive mental health.

Dr John McNamara, Teagasc Health and Safety Specialist, stated that Teagasc programmes are strongly focused on securing farm health and safety, farm profitability and work organisation to manage work time. He urged farmers to discuss farm related issues causing them challenges with their advisor, or consultant.

Dr McNamara also drew attention to the availability of the booklet ‘Staying Fit for Farming’ which can be downloaded from the internet. He urged farmers to obtain a regular health check and to contact their General Practitioner regarding any immediate health concern, or hospital emergency service if necessary.

Further information on the study entitled ‘The roles of financial threat, social support, work stress, and mental distress in dairy farmers expectations of injury’ is available at:


An article based on the study is available in the autumn 2016 issue of Teagasc’s research and innovation magazine TResearch at: https://www.teagasc.ie/publications/tresearch/

Mental Health Ireland, the national voluntary body promoting positive mental health and wellbeing provides information at


The Samaritans can be contacted at: 116123 (free to call).