By Suzanne Pender
A MAJOR study of farmers’ health was published this week as part of Men’s Health Week.
The research 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 with those who have fewer risk factors.
Seventy-five percent of all farmers participating in the research were advised to visit their GP to get further support and advice.
The lead author of the study, Diana van Doorn, a PhD Walsh Scholar at Teagasc and the National Centre for Men’s Health at IT Carlow, said that while the topline figures paint a worrying picture, there are positives.
“We found that the majority of farmers reported having visited their GP in the past year, fewer farmers smoke or drink compared with the general population and farmers, by virtue of their occupation, get a lot of physical activity. There are, however, areas of concern identified by the study,” she said.
These findings come from a study involving Teagasc, the National Centre for Men’s Health (NCMH) at IT Carlow, the Irish Heart Foundation, Glanbia Ireland, the HSE and UCD College of Health and Agricultural Sciences.
It saw 868 male farmers undergo health checks in marts and Glanbia Ireland Agribusiness branches across the south, east and midlands.
Dr David Meredith, Teagasc, highlighted that, internationally, there are few studies of this scale.
“With over 800 farmers participating in the health checks and the trial phase, this gives us insights not only into the health of farmers in general but also how demographic and social characteristics influence health.”
A number of the findings are of particular concern. Results show that the majority of farmers (85.9%) are living with either overweight or obesity. This is substantially higher than the national average for Irish men (68%).
Four-in-five (80.5%) farmers were classified as having an ‘at risk’ waist circumference of more than 94cm (37 inches). Abdominal weight is a major risk factor for heart disease.
Teagasc health and safety specialist Dr John McNamara stated that the results of this research will yield valuable knowledge on ways to promote cardiovascular health among farmers and he appealed to them to give cardiovascular disease prevention immediate attention. “Don’t put off going to the doctor or taking the first steps to a healthier lifestyle. Do it today.”