Rural Support Attends Launch of RABI Big Farming Survey Results

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Rural Support Attends Launch of RABI Big Farming Survey Results

Rural Support Attends Launch of RABI Big Farming Survey Results

October 27, 2021 Victoria Ross

Representatives from Rural Support were recently invited to attend the launch of the RABI Big Farming Survey Results in Birmingham to learn more about the position in relation to mental and physical health in the farming community in England and Wales and to share best practice from Northern Ireland.

In January 2021, RABI launched the largest ever research project relating to the wellbeing of farming people – the Big Farming Survey. This wide-ranging survey considered the relationship between the physical and mental health of farming people and the health of farm businesses. 

With very little existing evidence to provide insights into the challenges that a generation of farming people face, RABI commissioned Dr Rebecca Wheeler and Professor Matt Lobley from the Centre for Rural Policy Research at the University of Exeter, to lead this exciting research project. 

Following unprecedented support to promote the survey from stakeholders across agriculture, responses from over 15,000 farming people now provide, for the first time, a true reflection of the pressures and impacts they are facing, from a personal and business perspective.

Key Findings

RABI have drawn five key themes from the research. These are:

  • Low levels of mental health and wellbeing
    • 36% of the farming community are probably or possibly depressed
  • Concerning mental health and wellbeing picture amongst women in agriculture
    • over one-half of women (58%) experience mild, moderate, or severe anxiety
  • Multiple causes of stress amongst the farming community
    • an average of six factors cause stress. The most commonly reported sources of stress are; regulation, compliance and inspection, Covid-19, bad/unpredictable weather, loss of subsides/future trade deals
  • High levels of physical health issues impacting across the farming community
    • over half (52%) experience pain and discomfort, one in four have mobility problems and 21% have problems in undertaking usual tasks due to health issues
  • Optimism for the future of farming businesses
    • 59% of respondents believe their farming business is viable over the next five years

Attending the presentation, Dr Aoibeann Walsh, Head of Social Farming and Innovation at Rural Support said, “This is a very in-depth study that has delivered results that in many ways mirror recent research undertaken by Rural Support on farming pressures in Northern Ireland. The event in Birmingham gave us an excellent opportunity to learn more about the situation in England and Wales and how RABI intend to develop a more proactive approach to how they help farmers.

We also had an opportunity to share our experience after already beginning the roll out of our new strategic direction, based on the results of the Northern Ireland Farming Pressures Survey, that focuses on providing proactive and practical support for our farming families to help address the very real business, physical and emotional health issues that are faced here, and indeed across other regions of the UK, as the results of the RABI survey show”.

Clodagh Crowe, Head of Operations and Strategic Development at the organisation said, “We have had a very good relationship with RABI over the years at Rural Support, and they part-fund the Emergency Fund which provides financial support for people who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances through no fault of their own and need assistance. It also allowed Rural Support to issue food vouchers to vulnerable and isolated people in specific need at Christmas to help lighten the load for our rural families in distress.

So, we were delighted to have been invited over to Birmingham to share our experience in supporting farmers and farming families here in Northern Ireland and in exploring the position in other regions of the UK. We look forward to working closely with RABI over the coming months and years to expand our collaboration and share best practice to best support the agri-community in Northern Ireland”.

For more information on what free information, direct support and training programmes are available in Northern Ireland, farmers and farming family members are encouraged to visit the Northern Ireland Farm Support Hub at where there is a wealth of information on farm business and finance; physical health and emotional wellbeing; social farming and innovation; and, future planning and succession.

To download the RABI Big Farming Survey summary report go to


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