'Supporting NI Farmers in Times of Rapid Change' Rural Support 2023 survey results
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Monday (18th September) saw people from throughout the agricultural industry gather in Cookstown to learn more about the results, with the survey identifying the pressures the farming community are under from the perspective of the farmer.
In total, 460 people completed the survey from across Northern Ireland, of which 67 per cent were full-time farmers, with 98 per cent of respondents playing a role within the farming community.
Three per cent of respondents were aged 17-24, 20 per cent were aged 25-34, while 35-44 year olds also made up 20 per cent of those taking part. Twenty-five per cent were aged 45-54, 18 per cent aged 55-64, 11 per cent of respondents were aged 65-74 and three per cent were 75 years old or over.
Financial concerns, unsurprisingly, come out top in relation to the farm business with physical and mental health scoring highly in concerns for the farming family unit.
The Short Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (SWEMWBS) was applied to measure the mental health of participants with the results indicating that 67 per cent of participants scored below the population average for Northern Ireland and 26 per cent deemed to be in the mild to clinical depression range.
The results also revealed that 61 per cent of participants work alone most of the time and that 45 per cent of full-time farmers work 61 hours plus per week, which is almost the equivalent of working two full time jobs.
Commenting on the results of the survey, Gillian Reid, Head of Farm Support, said: “This survey very much reflects what our staff and mentors are hearing on the ground, but it brings home some very hard facts to us all.
“There are very clear messages which sound alarm bells and clearly many farmers are struggling with workload and being able to spend time with their family and friends. We saw comments like ‘overworking and tiredness are putting a strain on my relationships’, ‘physical and mental exhaustion’ and ‘increased stress causing pressure on family life’.
“When you have full time farmers between the ages of 35 and 54 working more than 81 hours a week that is simply dangerous, and these phrases clearly demonstrate how people are feeling who work in farming industry.
“We also know the challenges featured have potentially worsened even since this data was collected and there is little optimism for the winter ahead, so we at Rural Support are prepared for a busy and very challenging number of months.
“What I would stress is the importance to reach out for help to friends and family or give Rural Support a call, our services are free, impartial and confidential and we care about our farmers - don’t think for one minute you are the only one feeling under pressure, these results speak for themselves.”
Veronica Morris, Chief Executive at Rural Support, added: “The survey results will be used to help inform and develop Rural Support’s strategy as well as provide valuable information for stakeholders.”
To view the full survey findings, please visit www.ruralsupport.org.uk