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Men’s health in agricultural settings


Rural and remote Australians generally report higher levels of community participation, connection and volunteering than urban communities. Connecting with others, helps reduce isolation and has been shown to improve health. Rural men are often the first to help others but often find it difficult to accept help themselves. Celebrate “Mens’ Health Week 2020” 15-21 June, by helping yourself and helping other men.

However, men who live in rural and regional areas of Australia have a lower life expectancy than other men. They are also more likely to  experience poor mental health and  have higher rates of suicide.  There are also numerous occupational and environmental hazards on farms. For example, mobile machinery and equipment, agricultural and veterinary chemicals, livestock, extreme weather events, high sun exposure, tractors and vehicles such as motorbikes and quadbikes. Many of these hazards contribute to injuries on farms and increase rates of accidental death for males working in agricultural settings.  Farming men have a higher proportion of injuries than females on farms, particularly for injuries involving motorbikes and quadbikes. Riding with a helmet and having roll over protection on Quad bikes can reduce death and injury.

Health conditions that reduce the quality of men’s lives.

Men also experience a range of health conditions that reduce the quality of their life.

Leukaemia and testicular cancer have been listed as the most common cancers in males aged under 35 while melanoma of the skin, prostate cancer and bowel cancer were the most common cancers in men aged over 35 years of age.

Men living and working in remote areas, also experience a greater burden of disease with coronary heart disease, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, hearing loss and lung cancer playing a key role.

There are many occupational risks in agriculture that can contribute to such diseases. (For example, hot, dry conditions that can lead to dehydration, exposure to dust and chemicals can reduce lung function, UV for skin cancers, noise induced hearing loss). Working safely requires constant checking and planning to identify and reduce risks and stay healthy.

How rural men access health support

Rural men are often depicted as tough, capable, and self- reliant. These attitudes and ideas about masculinity can make it hard for men to acknowledge when they are not doing so well, which is the last thing you want when you need help. Because  men are less likely than women to take an active role in maintaining their health they often have difficulty locating and connecting with health services.  When they do visit a doctor, they tend to have shorter visits and only go when the condition is actually stopping them from working due to pain or dysfunction.

Because men are less likely to visit a doctor, they are less likely to engage in health checkups and sadly more likely to die of preventable diseases.

Good news:  Have a men’s health checkup.

Regular health checkups, including for male specific cancers (testicular and prostate) can help to improve the physical and mental health of rural men, their quality of their life, and their life expectancy.

Testicular cancer is not common but early diagnosis and treatment can cure almost all cases.

It is important for rural men to discuss their individual risk for prostate cancer with their doctor and to participate in bowel and skin screening regularly.

Health checkups for the conditions that are common in rural men might also include, heart health, kidney health, diabetes, anxiety and depression, eyesight.  Early diagnosis could improve, or even save your life!

Rural Men and Alcohol

Research indicates that both farming men and women are more likely to consume alcohol at short-term risky levels when compared to the general Australian population. There is a strong link between high risk drinking depression and suicide. Excessive drinking also affects judgement which can increase the risk of farm accidents, vehicle accidents  and other injury.

Fertility

Alcohol and smoking can affect sex drive, erectile function, sperm quality and fertility. They can also affect the health of unborn children. Each stage of the reproductive process is affected by the toxins in tobacco.

If you are thinking about reducing alcohol consumption or smoking, help is available.  It’s not easy but it’s not impossible!

Recent studies have shown a link between agrichemical usage and a range of health problems including fertility. Pesticide exposure may also increase the risk of birth defects and fetal growth retardation.

The positives for Rural Men’s Health!

Rural and remote Australians generally report higher levels of community participation, connection and volunteering than urban communities. Connecting with others, helps reduce isolation and has been shown to improve health. Rural men are often the first to help others but often find it difficult to accept help themselves. Celebrate “Mens’ Health Week 2020” 15-21 June, by helping yourself and helping other men. “WORKING TOGETHER FOR MEN’S HEALTH!”

References used for this topic page

More information:
Clinical care:

The University of Adelaide, Government of South Australia, Drug & Alcohol Services Council
Alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Clinical guidelines for nurses and midwives

Western Australian Mental Health Commission
Counselling Guidelines: Alcohol and other drug issues

Cancer Council
Clinical Guidelines – Prostate Cancer

Cancer Council
Clinical Practice Guidelines

Royal Australian College of General Practitioners
Clinical guideline for the diagnosis and management of work-related mental health conditions in general practice

Research and Reviews:

The University of Sydney
Evidence Evaluation Report: Evaluating the evidence on the health effects of alcohol consumption

The Journal of Rural Health
Alcohol Consumption, Obesity, and Psychological Distress in Farming Communities—An Australian Study

Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health
Identifying individual- and population-level characteristics that influence rates of risky alcohol consumption in regional communities

Journal of Agromedicine
Chronic disease and health risk behaviours among rural agricultural workforce in Queensland

Safe Work Australia
AGRICULTURE: A Snapshot

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) (2019)
The Health of Australia’s Males

Fast facts:

Mens health

  • Seeking help is not a sign of weakness. It’s courageous!
  • Smoking, alcohol and agrichemicals can all affect men’s fertility.
  • Farm Safety Audits help identify and reduce occupational and environmental risks on farms.
  • Regular checkups can improve the quality of men’s lives and their survival.

Last updated: 20th May, 2020