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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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62% of farmers overweight or obese – study

Researchers have published the findings of a new Irish study of male farmers’ diets and weight management.

According to the paper, 62% of farmers in the study were overweight or obese.

The study on farmers diets was undertaken following a national mortality study that showed farmers experience:

  • 5 times higher cardiovascular;
  • 3 times higher cancer;
  • 7 times higher mortality in the working-age range than ‘white collar’ workers.
Weight management

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

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

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

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

Farmers’ diets

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;
  • A high intake of meat, fried foods, salt, and sugary and/or salty snacks.

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

No significant associations were found between age (under or over 45 years old) and the daily recommended servings of vegetables, carbohydrates, dairy, or fats, nor in the frequency of consumption of red meat and fish.

“This indicates that dietary habits were consistent throughout the sample of farmers in the study.”

“However, younger farmers, less than 45 years of age, were significantly more likely to report consumption of processed meats on most days of the week.”

Alcohol and smoking

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

Increased injuries are internationally reported as being associated with being overweight or obese because of reduced mobility associated with these conditions.


A collaborative group conducted the study 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 paper’s lead author was Ms Diana van Doorn, PhD scholar with Teagasc and National Centre for Men’s Health, IT Carlow.

Co-authors are Dr Noel  Richardson, Director NCMH; Mr Aubrey Storey, Lecturer and Exercise Physiology, Waterford IT; Dr Caitriona Cunningham and  Professor Catherine Blake, School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science UCD, Dr Aoife Osborne, formerly of School of Agriculture and Food Science, UCD and Dr John McNamara, Teagasc Senior Health and Safety Specialist Advisor.

Researchers used convenience sampling to recruit male farmers aged over 18 years. In total, 314 farmers participated 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%);
  • Other – including tillage (19%).
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