19 January 2001

Outside interests ease stress level

Having interests outside the farm is a key factor in coping with stress, according to new research by clinical psychologist David Wheatcroft.

"You live, work, eat and sleep the business if you farm," says Dr Wheatcroft. So its useful to be involved with activities – even if theyre farming related – away from it. "Its about just physically getting off site."

Tackling problems head on rather than burying your head in the sand is important, as is identifying the warning signs of stress and acting on them. "If you are a farmer and have got a bad back you might just attribute it to doing a manual job, but it could be a symptom of psychological distress."

Those with problems, meanwhile, continue to turn to partners, family and friends in preference to more formal sources. Only 8% of those surveyed had dealt with a social worker, psychologist or psychiatrist and fewer had sought the help of a marriage counsellor (5%), a self-help group (5%) or a family counsellor (3%).

Among the reasons given for not approaching such people was the belief that they would be unable to understand the particular problems of farmers.

Overall, one-third of those surveyed showed high levels of stress, with money worries affecting 92%, pressure from new government regulations 79% and paperwork 57%.