The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (Rabi) will launch three new pilot support programs in response to a major survey that reveals the extent of mental health problems in agriculture.
The charity’s findings, released Thursday, October 14, were described by its chairman, the Duke of Gloucester, as a “wake-up call to all who want to help build a better future for the farming community” .
Over 15,000 responses were collected from the farming community in England and Wales by rural researchers at the University of Exeter.
The survey reveals that more than a third of respondents (36%) are “probably or possibly depressed”.
More than half of the farming community (52%) experience physical aches and pains that have a profound impact on mental health.
One in four people have mobility problems and 21% find it difficult to carry out their work due to health problems.
The prevalence of depression and anxiety varies from industry to industry, however, with people working in grains, general crops and horticulture less likely than others to experience these conditions.
Stressors and other key findings
- The main causes of stress cited are regulation, compliance and inspection; the coronavirus pandemic; unstable weather; the loss of subsidies and future trade agreements; and rural crime.
- The number of significant sources of stress reported by different types of farms ranges from 4.3 factors in specialized poultry farms to more than six factors for livestock and pig farmers in disadvantaged areas.
- More than half of the women who responded (58%) reported experiencing mild, moderate or severe anxiety, compared to 44% of men.
- The feeling of being alone often or always is more prominent in younger age groups.
- One in 10 men and women in the 16-24 age group say they often or always feel lonely. For women, this proportion rises to 13% among 25-34 year olds – the age group most likely to experience some level of anxiety.
- More positively, 59% of respondents believe their business is sustainable over the next five years.
Responding to the findings, Suzy Deeley, head of corporate partnerships at Rabi, said the charity will pilot three new support programs: a mental health first aid training course; better access to in-person mental health support; and other trials of the Community Pillars program, which creates small, local forums where farmers can speak with confidence.
“There is a tremendous amount of work going on behind the scenes at Rabi to initiate a targeted and appropriate response in partnership with key partner organizations, and we look forward to sharing more about these developments soon,” Ms. Deeley said.
Principal researcher Matt Lobley said the report provided excellent insight into the realities of farm life and its recommendations were in line with Rabi’s evolution.