BeSafe Conference 2024 unravels the relationship between stress and farmers’ well-being in Dublin


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At the recent 2024 BeSafe Conference held in Teagasc Ashtown, researchers delved into the intricate connection between stress and farmers’ well-being. The conference, which assembled experts and stakeholders, aimed to advance research focused on improving farmers’ safety and overall health.

The project involves collaboration among researchers from Teagasc, the University of Galway, and University College Dublin (UCD), supported by funding from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM). Presenting the research findings at the event, Dr. Diana Van Doorn, Teagasc Post-Doctoral Scholar (Safe Habitus), remarked:

“While extensive research in Ireland and internationally shows that farmers often experience stress, there has been limited investigation into its impact on their overall well-being.”

She revealed her team’s findings on the impact of stress on farmers’ well-being to the conference attendees. The study compiled data from 754 livestock farmers in Dublin over an extended period characterized by severe weather events throughout 2018.

The researchers identified 111 farmers (approximately 15%) within the group who were classified as having ‘poor’ well-being. Among this group, 13 farmers (around 12%) reported experiencing stress continuously, while another 18% admitted feeling stressed frequently.

A deeper examination of 199 dairy farmers indicated that 61 (approximately 31%) reported having ‘below average’ or ‘poor’ well-being. Within this subgroup, 7 (11%) experienced stress often or very often.

A year later, as conditions for dairy farmers improved, the same group was surveyed again, revealing that 56 (28%) still reported ‘below average’ or ‘poor’ well-being. Interestingly, the number of farmers who experienced stress frequently or very frequently remained unchanged from the previous year.

Impact of stress levels as discussed in the besafe conference 2024

Dr. David Meredith, Teagasc researcher and leader of the DAFM BeSafe project, highlighted the implications of this research for policymakers and industry organizations.

“Firstly, our analysis shows that not all farmers experience stress. Secondly, stress levels among farmers change over time, meaning that current stress does not guarantee future stress,” he explained.

Awareness around the importance of positive mental health is increasing across society including amongst farmers

Martin Heydon

Martin Heydon, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, with responsibilities for research and farm safety, served as the guest of honor at the inaugural event of the 2024 BeSafe Conference. He reaffirmed his commitment to funding further research and support initiatives aimed at enhancing farmers’ welfare and overall health.

“I strongly believe that farmer well-being is inextricably linked to farm safety because a busy or distracted mind cannot be fully focused on the task at hand,” Minister Heydon stated.

Dr Van Doorn highlighted the significance of these findings for farm safety and the importance of addressing the issue proactively.

The researchers emphasized that not all farmers experience stress, but their well-being can fluctuate over time. Dr Meredith also pointed out that a farmer who currently experiences high levels of stress does not necessarily mean they will continue to struggle in the future.

The conference concluded with a call for more actionable steps to promote farmers’ welfare and address their unique mental health challenges. Industry bodies, policymakers, and support organizations were encouraged to collaborate in implementing evidence-based solutions.

The BeSafe Conference in Dublin not only provided an essential platform for fostering dialogue among various stakeholders and researchers but also served as a catalyst for driving meaningful change to improve the mental health and welfare of farmers in Dublin and beyond.

Recognizing the complex interplay between stress and farmers’ well-being is essential for implementing effective strategies that promote emotional resilience within the agricultural community. As the agricultural sector continues to evolve, it is crucial that farmers’ physical and mental health needs remain at the forefront of discussions.

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