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Alcohol Consumption, Obesity, and Psychological Distress in Farming Communities—An Australian Study

Authors

  • Susan Brumby MHM,

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Medicine, Deakin University, Geelong, Victoria, Australia
    • National Centre for Farmer Health, Western District Health Service, Hamilton, Victoria, Australia
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  • Alison Kennedy BB.Sc. (Hons),

    1. National Centre for Farmer Health, Western District Health Service, Hamilton, Victoria, Australia
    2. School of Psychology, Deakin University, Geelong, Victoria, Australia
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  • Ananda Chandrasekara PhD

    1. National Centre for Farmer Health, Western District Health Service, Hamilton, Victoria, Australia
    2. School of Medicine, Deakin University, Geelong, Victoria, Australia
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  • Funding: This research was supported by The Joint Research Venture for Farm Health and Safety (WDH-1A), managed by the Rural Industries Research Development Corporation, Australia; Gardiner Foundation and WestVic Dairy (CDMP1/002), Victoria, Australia; The Joint Research Venture for Farm Health and Safety, Cotton Research & Development Corporation and Sugar Research & Development Corporation (WDH-2J), Australia; Victorian Department of Primary Industries, Australia; Victorian Department of Human Services, Australia; and the Department of Health and Ageing, Australia.

  • Acknowledgments: We acknowledge and thank the above agencies that funded the Sustainable Farm Families (SFF) program from 2003-2009. We would also like to thank all of the farm families, industry groups and SFF health professionals who participated. In particular Tracey Hatherell, Adrian Calvano, Cate Mercer-Grant, Stuart Willder, Sue Watt, Professor John Martin, Amy Hutchins, and Ann Curran. We thank the reviewers for their helpful and constructive comments in the preparation of this manuscript.

For further information, contact: Susan Brumby, MHM, National Centre for Farmer Health; PO Box 283; Hamilton VIC 3300; Australia; e-mail: susan.brumby@deakin.edu.au.

Abstract

Purpose

Alcohol consumption patterns nationally and internationally have been identified as elevated in rural and remote populations. In the general Australian population, 20.5% of adult males and 16.9% of adult females drink at short-term, high-risk levels. Farmers are more likely to drink excessively than those living in major cities. This study seeks to explore the relationships between farmers’ physical and mental health and their alcohol consumption patterns. Our hypothesis is that farmers consume alcohol at high-risk levels more often than the Australian average and that this consumption is associated with obesity and psychological distress.

Methods

Cross-sectional descriptive data were collected within Australian farming communities from 1,792 consenting adults in 97 locations across Australia. Data on anthropometric measurements, general physical attributes and biochemical assessments were used to explore the interrelationships of self-reported alcohol consumption patterns with obesity, psychological distress, and other physical health parameters.

Findings

There was a higher prevalence of short-term, high-risk alcohol consumption (56.9% in men and 27.5% in women) reported in the study compared with national data. There was also a significant positive association between the prevalence of high-risk alcohol consumption and the prevalence of obesity and abdominal adiposity in psychologically distressed participants.

Conclusions

The prevalence of short-term, high-risk alcohol consumption practices in this cohort of farming men and women is significantly higher than the Australian average. These consumption practices are coupled with a range of other measurable health issues within the farming population, such as obesity, hypertension, psychological distress, and age.

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