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Farming fit? Dispelling the Australian agrarian myth

Brumby, Susan, Chandrasekara, Ananda, McCoombe, Scott, Kremer, Peter and Lewandowski, Paul 2011, Farming fit? Dispelling the Australian agrarian myth, BMC Research Notes, vol. 4, no. 89, doi: 10.1186/1756-0500-4-89.

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Title Farming fit? Dispelling the Australian agrarian myth
Author(s) Brumby, SusanORCID iD for Brumby, Susan
Chandrasekara, AnandaORCID iD for Chandrasekara, Ananda
McCoombe, ScottORCID iD for McCoombe, Scott
Kremer, PeterORCID iD for Kremer, Peter
Lewandowski, Paul
Journal name BMC Research Notes
Volume number 4
Issue number 89
Total pages 5
Publisher BioMed Central Ltd
Place of publication London, England
Publication date 2011
ISSN 1756-0500
Summary Background: Rural Australians face a higher mental health and lifestyle disease burden (obesity, diabetes and
cardiovascular disease) than their urban counterparts. Our ongoing research reveals that the Australian farming
community has even poorer physical and mental health outcomes than rural averages. In particular, farm men and
women have high rates of overweightness, obesity, abdominal adiposity, high blood pressure and psychological
distress when compared against Australian averages. Within our farming cohort we observed a significant
association between psychological distress and obesity, abdominal adiposity and body fat percentage in the
farming population.
Presentation of hypothesis: This paper presents a hypothesis based on preliminary data obtained from an
ongoing study that could potentially explain the complex correlation between obesity, psychological distress and
physical activity among a farming population. We posit that spasmodic physical activity, changing farm practices
and climate variability induce prolonged stress in farmers. This increases systemic cortisol that, in turn, promotes
abdominal adiposity and weight gain.
Testing the hypothesis: The hypothesis will be tested by anthropometric, biochemical and psychological analysis
matched against systemic cortisol levels and the physical activity of the subjects.
Implications of the hypothesis tested: Previous studies indicate that farming populations have elevated rates of
psychological distress and high rates of suicide. Australian farmers have recently experienced challenging climatic
conditions including prolonged drought, floods and cyclones. Through our interactions and through the media it is
not uncommon for farmers to describe the effect of this long-term stress with feelings of ‘defeat’. By gaining a
greater understanding of the role cortisol and physical activity have on mental and physical health we may
positively impact the current rates of psychological distress in farmers.
Language eng
DOI 10.1186/1756-0500-4-89
Field of Research 111799 Public Health and Health Services not elsewhere classified
Socio Economic Objective 920506 Rural Health
HERDC Research category C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
Copyright notice ©2011, The Authors
Free to Read? Yes
Use Rights Creative Commons Attribution licence
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Document type: Journal Article
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