Cardiovascular risk factors and psychological distress in Australian farming communities


Clinical Associate Professor Susan Brumby, National Centre for Farmer Health, Western District Health Service, Hamilton, Victoria 3300, Australia. Email:


Objective:  To examine the prevalence of cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors, psychological distress and associations between physical and mental health parameters within a cohort of the Australian farming community.

Design:  Cross-sectional descriptive study.

Setting:  Farming communities across Australia.

Participants:  Data of men (n = 957) and women (n = 835) farmers from 97 locations across Australia were stratified into categories based on National Cholesterol Education Program guidelines.

Main outcome measure(s):  Prevalence of and interrelationship between overweight, obesity, dyslipidaemia, hypertension, diabetes risk and psychological distress.

Results:  There was a higher prevalence of overweight (42.5%, 95% confidence interval (CI), 34.2–50.8), obesity (21.8%, 95% CI, 18.3–25.3), abdominal adiposity (38.4% 95% CI, 24.5–52.5), hypertension (54.0%, 95% CI, 34.4–73.5) and diabetes risk (25.3%, 95% CI, 17.7–36.7) in the farming cohort compared with national data. There was also a positive significant association between the prevalence of psychological distress and obesity, abdominal adiposity, body fat percentage and metabolic syndrome in older (age ≥ 50 years) participants.

Conclusions:  This study group of farming men and women exhibited an increased prevalence of CVD risk factors and co-morbidities. The findings indicate a positive association between psychological distress and risk for developing CVD, particularly in the older farmers. If the younger cohort were to maintain elevated rates of psychological distress, then it is foreseeable that the next generation of farmers could experience poorer physical health than their predecessors.