Farmers are among the UK’s hardest workers – but long hours and a lack of holidays threaten to undermine their health and wellbeing, an exclusive Farmers Weekly survey reveals.
Findings from the survey are being published this week to coincide with the launch of a Farmers Weekly campaign to promote better health and wellbeing among farmers. Called Fit2Farm, the campaign will also highlight the wider benefits when farmers take better care of themselves.
The average farmer works 65 hours a week – much longer than the UK national average of 37 hours, according to the study. Some work much longer than that. Livestock producers in particular feel tied to the farm, but all sectors say they find it hard to take a break.
More than 875 farmers, farm managers and workers responded to the survey – making it one of the biggest ever undertaken by Farmers Weekly. The online study was undertaken independently in association with Bayer and Isuzu during August and September.
Only two-thirds of respondents said they took a regular day off at least once a month. One in 10 said they took no holidays during the year – the same as the proportion of respondents who said they never participated in non-farming activities away from the farm.
Stress and lack of sleep
Lack of time is a major contributor to stress – causing health problems that affect family life and business performance. Many farmers found it hard to sleep, getting little more than 6.5 hours a night. More than a quarter (28%) said they had trouble sleeping all or most of the time.
Tiredness and fatigue are also contributing to farm accidents, the survey suggests. One in five farmers said they had been involved in a work-related accident within the past 12 months, confirming agriculture’s status as one of the UK’s most hazardous occupations.
Amy Irwin, a psychologist at Aberdeen University, said it was important for farmers to recognise the symptoms of stress and address them. Otherwise, stress could lead to anxiety and depression – and increase the likelihood of having an accident.
That said, some farmers are striving to maintain a better work-life balance. Yorkshire potato grower Andrew Wilson said: “We try to avoid working Sundays if at all possible, always stop for breaks no matter how busy, and don’t go beyond 14 hours a day unless desperately urgent.”
Farmers Weekly has launched a new campaign to help farmers discover how they can improve their own health, wellbeing and work-life balance.
It’s all about making sure you are in top shape, physically and mentally to run your farm business.
We’ve been joined by business and charities to raise awareness for this campaign. Read about our sponsors below.
Read all of the articles in the Fit2Farm series
Your wellbeing is just as important to your farm’s future as looking after your land, crops and animals. Looking after yourself helps you be more productive and confidently face new challenges.
At Bayer, we have health and nutrition at our core, so we are delighted to support Fit2Farm.
Find out more at cropscience.bayer.co.uk/wellbeing
Isuzu are proud to support UK farmers of today and as the pick-up professionals we understand that having the right tools and equipment are vital elements to making the working day go that much easier.
That’s why with Isuzu, our pick-ups are strong, durable and built to go the distance, so you can focus the job in hand.
Find out more about the Isuzu D-Max range on our website
Our charity partners
Farming Community Network
The Farming Community Network (FCN) is a voluntary organisation and charity that supports farmers and families within the farming community through difficult times.
FCN’s volunteers provide free, confidential, pastoral and practical support to anyone who seeks help, regardless of whether the issue is personal or business-related.
Helpline: 03000 111999
Helpline is open every day of the year from 7am to 11pm
Farm Safety Foundation
The Farm Safety Foundation is an award-winning charity raising awareness of farm safety among the next generation of farmers.
Through training and campaigns such as Farm Safety Week and Mind Your Head, the Foundation tackles the stigma around risk-taking and poor mental health, ensuring that that next generation of farmers is equipped with specific skills to live well and farm well.
Worshipful Company of Farmers
The complexity, risk and relentless uncertainty within agriculture today take a tremendous toll on all those who work in the industry; never before has resilience been so crucial.
Recognising this we are delighted to support this new initiative to promote good health and wellbeing. It’s a fresh approach and demonstrates that working together we are always stronger.