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ILVO press release - Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Unhealthy stress and the liveability of the Flemish farming family – call for participants in new research study

ILVO is starting a delicate investigation into the well-being of farm families. The intention is to find out the degree of long-term stress present in these families, what the causes are and how that stress is being handled. There are indications that farmers run more risks in terms of excessive mental pressure compared to other occupational categories. Complaints in this sector also remain under the radar for quite a long time, according to previous research. The Flemish farming organizations ABS, Boerenbond, KVLV-agra, VABS, Groene Kring and a number of mental health centers fully support the ILVO research initiative.
Personal experiences? The researchers hereby shout out to individual farmers / experts / experience experts and their family members to participate in a (confidential) one-on-one interview and / or a group discussion.
Lies Messely (ILVO): 'The idea is that the stress issue in Flemish agriculture will be assessed on the basis of first-hand testimonials. We hope to distil well-founded, workable recommendations that can boost resilience and well-being.'

Serious international signals

Scientific literature on the theme of excessive stress in agriculture is scarce. Occasional (trade) press reports are published on the phenomenon. In the US, Australia and India disturbing statistics have appeared regarding farmer suicide. In France, the Institute for Public Health in 2013 calculated that, on average, every two days a French farmer takes his own life as a result of unbearable mental pressure. In Brittany, France, the emotional event of 3 years ago - a tribute to the deceased farmers with 600 white crosses – is still reverberating. Dutch and British media have also sounded the alarm clock around a number of suicides.

Flemish situation needs more study

In Flanders, no official figures are kept on this subject. Until now, there are only partial data on stress and / or well-being in farming families.
The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries calculates after a recent survey (n = 550) about well-being in the agricultural and horticultural sector that about one in five farmers is struggling with high to very high stress, and about 35% are dissatisfied with their farm-based income.

Scientific substantiation, breaking through any taboos, formulating recommendations.
There is a need for more attention and scientific substantiation of the problem and its causes. Charlotte Prové (ILVO): 'That requires sociological research. As ILVO, we want to know which factors (economic, political, social, personal) influence the psychosocial resilience of the farming family. What impact do the ever-changing regulations have? To what extent does the image of agriculture play a role in society? How do family relationships with (their own) parents, partner, and children affect farmers?"
In addition to an inventory of possible sources of stress, ILVO will also try to find out how farming families deal with this stress. Do they have a tendency to tackle problems or rather avoid them? Where do they see possible solutions? What kinds of help are already available and what kind of external support is needed? Finally, the focus is on the specific context of the agricultural sector.

Contact

Greet Riebbels, ILVO communication, greet.riebbels@ilvo.vlaanderen.be, M +32 486 26 00 14
Lies Messely, ILVO research leader 'Liveability in Flemish agriculture', Lies.Messely@ilvo.vlaanderen.be, M +32 497 54 96 78