The RABI Big Farming survey covering the health, wellbeing, hopes and fears of the farming industry has recently published its results. The report contained some figures that were surprising, even when set against the current backdrop of agricultural transition, market volatility and the Covid-19 pandemic.
36% of the farming community are probably or possibly depressed while 47% are experiencing some form of anxiety. Of greatest concern is that 18% of the respondents surveyed are experiencing moderate or severe anxiety. Feeling anxious is a normal reaction to short term stress such as an impending farm assurance inspection, needing a procedure in hospital or a prolonged period of poor weather affecting farming operations. However, when you feel persistently down for weeks and months or anxiety begins to affect how you live your life, then it is time to seek professional help.
We know that farming can be an isolated existence, but to read that those under 35 in the farming sector are suffering with loneliness well in excess of the national average, is heartbreaking, especially when combined with the results that these younger farmers are least likely to confide their worries in someone else.
Unfortunately, the physical health of the respondents was not much better, with 52% reporting that they lived with some form of pain and discomfort, which is well above the UK average. 64% of people experienced pain in joints and muscles that was related to their work on the farm. Meanwhile, 13% of respondents suffered with respiratory disorders and 9% with general ill health.
Stress piles additional pressure onto a workforce already struggling with poor mental and physical health. The factors most likely to contribute to feelings of stress were cited as regulation/compliance, changes to the farm subsidy system, poor weather, Covid-19 and rural crime but with a feeling of not being valued by the public also creeping into the list.
The positive thing to take away from this survey is that the CLA can help members who are struggling with one or more of these aspects.
Our technical advice is second to none and can help you navigate a tricky financial situation, resolve a public access problem and begin to plan for a future away from the Basic Payment Scheme cheque. We can signpost to other organisations including RABI and Farming Community Network where members need specific support outside of our expertise
There is no need to suffer in silence with loneliness. With the vast number of committees, working groups, technical seminars and social events that are on offer at the CLA, you can meet new people from your peer group and share problems and ideas.
Finally, remember that many of our staff are also firmly rooted in our rural communities and are always willing to listen to your worries and concerns. It is time to act and make sure that these figures on mental and physical health in the farming sector improve when the next Big Farm Survey is published.