Heath & Wellbeing Research Report - Executive Summary
UK agriculture is a vital industry with lots of potential – but an urgent need for a more holistic approach to support if farmers working in the sector are to thrive.
Concerns include major challenges around mental health, long working hours and rural isolation – as well as unpredictable weather, uncertain global markets and volatile commodity prices. Brexit will add to these pressures – requiring many farm businesses to rethink the way they operate.
While some farmers are well-placed to deal with these changes, others are not.
Two thirds of younger farmers report being good physical health, they are most likely to say that their mental health is only ‘about average’. There are also social and cultural factors that affect health and well-being behaviours in farmers.
Stakeholders and rural support organisations suggest that there may be under-reporting of suicide among farming occupations. Statistics on suicide by occupation only include those up to the age of 65 – so they exclude farmers who continue working beyond traditional retirement age.
Academics, organisations and rural charities have also identified a series of economic or business factors affecting the farming sector. These include declining farm gate prices, changing weather patterns, animal diseases, and the burden created by the large number of regulatory bodies.
Pressure to retain the farm within the family can put extra stress on farmers to continue – whatever the cost. While some farmers continue to operate while making a loss, others diversify their activities to generate income on or off the farm.
Yet rural isolation and the close-knit nature of many farming communities means people are sometimes reluctant to seek help. The situation is exacerbated by a reduction in public services which means help is sometimes not available.
Rural support groups set up specifically to help farmers are being called on more than ever before. But they have finite resources and some struggle to raise the funds or recruit the staff needed to meet the demands of their increased workload.
This means some groups are unable to plan for the longer-term and are restricted in the assistance they can provide – despite being trusted as a valuable source of help by the farmers and rural communities they were set up to support.
The report makes a number of recommendations:
- Enhance the help provided to staff, volunteers and trustees at support groups so they do not experience burnout as demands on their services increase.
- Collect data and evidence to demonstrate the effectiveness of support groups and the positive difference they make to farming and rural communities.
- Improve networking between support groups and with other service providers so they can learn from one another and share resources where appropriate.
- Better promote the work of rural support networks and highlight their benefits more effectively with government, statutory funders and major charities.
- The establishment of a nationwide programme which takes a holistic approach to promote well-being among farming families and rural communities.
To download and read the full report please follow this link Wcf Health And Wellbeing Research Report Final April