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Milestone study reveals wellbeing is top of mind for young farmers

Newshub logoNewshub 4/02/2019 Angie Skerrett
a man standing next to a cow: A mental health campaign in memory of a young shepherd who took his own life was launched last year. © Video: Newshub Image: Getty A mental health campaign in memory of a young shepherd who took his own life was launched last year.

A major new study has revealed that wellbeing is front-of-mind for many young farmers.

The research is from the biggest study of its kind in New Zealand and was commissioned by rural wellbeing programme Farmstrong.

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Workload, fatigue, relationships, sleep and time off farm, are some of the main wellbeing challenges facing farmers under 35.

The milestone study found 64 percent of younger farming men and 77 percent of women reported that at least one wellbeing issue had a large impact on their life.

The research also reinforced the link between wellbeing and risk of injury/accident. 

Two thirds reported that a wellbeing issue had contributed to one of their worst on-farm accidents or injuries in the last 12 months.

"Having such a large response with close to 900 taking part, the survey shows that wellbeing is definitely on the radar for younger farmers," said Farmstrong spokesperson Gerard Vaughan.

"They are the future of farming and despite the ups and downs of the industry, there is so much they enjoy about it," he said.

"Knowing that 84 percent of women and 74 percent of men are saying they want to invest in ways to improve their wellbeing is really pleasing."

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Women also reported higher levels of issues that had "large" or greater impact on their wellbeing compared to the men, and the effect was more pronounced for female sharemilkers and contract milkers.  

Several younger farmers during in-depth interviews identified "two years of drought" and "terrible wet weather" as a source of significant stress.

Mr Vaughan said the research confirmed that there is plenty about farming life that young farmers enjoy despite its ups and downs.

"For many, farming brings a genuine sense of accomplishment, reward and recognition," he said. 

For some this manifested in "winning dairy industry awards","hitting targets and getting good results on farm and having your name out in the farming sector". Others liked the sense of achievement and task-driven nature of the work, "ticking things off".

Others mentioned their fondness for the working environment itself, such as the pleasure of seeing animals or the things they had planted grow and flourish.

"The combination of the insight research and survey findings has provided rich data for better understanding the needs of younger farmers," said Mr Vaughan.

He said Farmstrong will increasingly include within its wellbeing initiatives, stories, tips and resources on the topics that younger farmers said were of highest interest. 

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention and mental health:

Lifeline's 24-hour telephone counseling service on 0800 543 354

Need to talk? 1737 – free call or text any time to talk to a trained counselor

Depression Helpline (8am to 12 midnight) - 0800 111 757

Suicide Crisis Helpline (aimed at those in distress, or those who are concerned about the wellbeing of someone else) - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

Youthline - 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email talk@youthline.co.nz

Healthline – 0800 611 116

Samaritans – 0800 726 666

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

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