Stress and late diagnosis the silent killers for farmers
The statistical evidence is stark - farmers have a higher death risk than any other occupation in Ireland, with the main causes being heart disease, cancers and farm accidents.
This was the stark message from senior Teagasc adviser Tom Gleeson at last week's ICSA's meeting on rural isolation and coping, called to highlight the current state of farmer health throughout the country.
"While farmers continue to work in the fresh air and spend their days being active, they are less likely to do regular cardio exercise, watch their diet, wear sunscreen and - most importantly - visit their doctors," he told a packed attendance at last week's meeting in Kilrush Golf Club, Co Clare, adding: "The main reason for poorer health among farmers is late diagnosis."
Speakers at the meeting included Seamus Sherlock of the ICSA, Garda Supt Martin McGonnell, and Peter Gohery, a farm accident victim and founder of Embrace, the rural safety awareness and support organisation.
"I have been working in west Clare for some 10 years now and I walk onto farms which are at the mercy of the weather, large livestock numbers, heavy machinery, deep tanks and high power lines, and it is left to farmers to create a safe environment for both children and elderly family members," said Mr Gleeson.
"Added to these on-farm dangers are the time pressures, bureaucracy, tightening finance availability and decreasing social supports for the farmer, and these factors are adding to the stress within farming communities."
All these issues, when endured over a long period of time, can lead to mental fatigue and eventually depression, and if they are not addressed they increase the chances of farm accidents occurring, he said.
Social supports were critical in tackling the problems, which are emerging from rural isolation, and one of the best ways to address them was "to talk".