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Better health means better business outcomes on the land

Australian farmers are getting older, now averaging 56 years, and chronic disease and musculoskeletal injuries are more common.

Older workers also take longer to recover from ill health or injuries, so there is a strong case to show that business owners who look after their own health and wellbeing, as well as that of their workers, have better outcomes.

The latest 2017-2018 National Health Survey (compared with 2014-2015) found chronic disease risk factors of smoking, poor diet and being overweight/obese has reduced slightly but drinking alcohol at risky levels has increased. Overweight and obesity in the agriculture industry is above national and state averages, a key risk factor for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers and other chronic diseases.

The survey reported that while workers did moderate to vigorous physical activity for most of their working day, a high proportion said they were not meeting the weekly physical recommendations. The guidelines have risen to 150–300 minutes a week of moderate intensity where heart rate and breathing increases, with two sessions a week of muscle strengthening activities. For over 65s, 30 minutes exercise a day is recommended.

Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing chart

A quarter of agricultural workers surveyed experienced moderate or severe body pain in the last four weeks and 16.4% stated pain interfered with their normal work. Information from the Queensland Employee Injury Database (QEIDB) for the five years to June 2017 shows that 41% of all injury claims are sprains and strains. Many of these are caused by hazardous manual tasks, costing $6.8 million a year.

There are free resources, services and programs available for employers and workers in rural and remote areas to help them adopt positive lifestyles and reduce their risks of developing a chronic disease.

All you need is a telephone and/or internet to access:

  • Quit HQ – Quit smoking program helping Queenslanders quit smoking. Pharmacological supports and motivational interviewing are available.
  • Get healthy Qld is a free confidential phone service to help Queenslanders make positive physical activity and nutritional changes. Participants get a personal health coach, 10 free coaching calls over six months and resources to track their progress.
  • My Health for Life!is a risk assessment and lifestyle program delivered by health professionals for those at high risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Further information

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland also has agriculture resources at worksafe.qld.gov.au/agriculture and Health and wellbeing in the workplace.