Irish male farmers experience some of the highest levels of adverse health outcomes relative to other occupations – particularly in relation to heart disease, cancers and mental health. Despite this, many farmers do not seek help until their illness reaches crisis point. A recently published Irish study throws new light on the socio-cultural environment that shapes male farmers’ health seeking behaviour. The Study has been published in the American Journal of Men’s health and is led by Clonoulty man and Teagasc scholar Conor Hammersely.
The study “That’s Me I am the Farmer of the Land”: was conducted by a collaborative group from Teagasc, the National Centre for Men’s Health at Institute of Technology, Carlow, and the Centre for Health Behaviour Research in Waterford Institute of Technology.
Mr Hammersley said: “Many farmers view seeking help as an ‘admission of failure’ and a betrayal of a masculine image of themselves as men and farmers. They tend to prioritise farm work and the health of their animals over their own health and safety.” The study identified a sense of obligation on the part of male farmers to put their ‘bodies on the line’ and, consequently, sacrifice their health.
The authors’ argue that the associated behaviours of what many perceive to be ‘manly’ behaviour needs to be exposed as a construct that is inherently unhealthy.
The next stage of the project aims to develop a training programme, titled ‘On Feirm Ground’, to take into consideration farmers’ concerns by providing farm advisors and consultants with the knowledge and skills to support farmers to be proactive in managing their health. An online showcase aimed at creating a new National Farmer Health Alliance in Ireland will be held on September 16. The study is part of a wider study commissioned by the HSE and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine against a backdrop of poor health outcomes for male farmers.