An Irish study of male farmers’ diets and weight management shows that 62% of farmers in the study were overweight or obese.

The study on farmers' diets was undertaken following a national mortality study showing that farmers experience five times higher cardiovascular, three times higher cancer and seven times higher farm injury mortality in the working age range than ‘white collar’ workers.

Half of farmers (53%) considered that they were ‘about the right weight’, but based on BMI calculations they were in fact classified as being overweight or obese.

However, 31% of farmers in the study were actively trying to lose weight, while a further 15% were advised by a doctor to lose weight.

This information indicates mixed knowledge levels related to weight management among farmers, the researchers say.

Fruit and veg

The study was conducted by a collaborative group from Teagasc, the National Centre for Men’s Health, Institute of Technology Carlow, Waterford Institute of Technology and the UCD schools of public health, physiotherapy and sports science, and agriculture and food science.

The study results revealed that a high proportion of male farmers’ dietary habits consisted of a low intake of fruit and vegetables, dairy products and fish and a high intake of meat, fried foods, salt and sugary and salty snacks.

A major finding of the study was that almost one in four farmers reported not having consumed any fruit or vegetables the previous day.

Online guidance

One in five farmers reported smoking (20%) and drinking alcohol one or more times weekly (22%). The majority (93%) reported being highly physically active.

The paper calls for more awareness and educational programmes to assist farmers with health gain, including diet.

Farmers are asked to consult the HSE online guidance ‘How to Eat Well’.

In total, 314 farmers participated in the study, with a mean age of 41 years.

Two-thirds (68%) of farmers were full-time farmers and engaged in a range of farm enterprises including beef cattle/suckler cows (31%), dairy and beef cattle (27%), sheep (25%), beef cattle (19%), intensive dairy (17%) and other, including tillage (19%).