Original Research

'It could have been a lot worse': the psychological effects of farm-related serious injury in Victoria


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Margaret Murray1
BSc(Hons), Research Assistant *

Jessica Beattie2 B APPSCI, MHHSM, Lecturer in Rural General Practice (Program Development and Support)

Candis McLeod3 0, Administrative Assistant

Daryl Pedler4 D.H.S, General Practitioner

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Susan A Brumby5
PhD, Director National Centre for Farmer Health

Belinda Gabbe6 PhD, Head of Pre-hospital, Emergency and Trauma Research


1, 2 Deakin University, Geelong, Australia

3 School of Medicine, Warrnambool Clinical School, South West Healthcare Warrnambool, Victoria 3280, Australia

4 Rural Community Clinical School (RCCS), Deakin University, Warrnambool, Victoria 3280, Australia

5 National Centre for Farmer Health Deakin University, Western District Health Service, Hamilton, Victoria 3300, Australia

6 Department of Epidemiology and Preventative Medicine, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria 3004, Australia

ACCEPTED: 6 July 2019

early abstract:

Introduction: The psychological response to injury is an important factor in recovery and the development of psychological problems can result in a delay or inability to return to pre-injury functioning, including return to work. Farming is widely acknowledged as a stressful occupation, with non-injured farmers already at an increased risk of developingsignificant psychological problems; including high levels of stress, depression, and increased rates of suicide. This study aimed to investigate the psychological effectsof serious farm-related injury on farmers, and how this influences their recovery.

Methods: A qualitative study of 31 Victorian farmers, who sustained major trauma between 2007 and 2013. Participants were identified using the Victorian State Trauma Registry (VSTR) and underwent an in-depth semi-structured telephone interview. Recruitment continued until data saturation was achieved, and thematic analysis was used to identify important themes from the data.

Main findings: For many farmers, the traumatic circumstances and ongoing impact of their injury was a life-changing experience. The psychological effectsof sustaining a major farm-related injury varied between participants, however four major interconnected themes were identified:(i) Importance of a pragmatic outlook; (ii) Grief, helplessness and loss of independence; (iii) Traumatic thoughts post-injury; and (iv) The importance of the support network and community. The findings of this study highlight both a reluctance for psychological assistance as well as the importance of psychological resilience and support networks on their recovery.

Conclusion: Overall, a positive outlook was found to be the primary enabler in the farmer’s recovery. It is recommended that injured farmers should be provided with additional psychological support and advice to aid in their recovery. Additionally psychological support services should be extended to include both the family network and the broader farming community, as these were found to experience significant short and long term stress following farmers’ injury.