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Determinants of Good Work Ability among Organic and Conventional Farmers in Finland

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health. 26(2): 67-76. (doi: 10.13031/jash.13667) @2020
Authors:   Tiina E. A. Mattila, Risto H. Rautiainen, Maria Hirvonen, Minna Väre, Merja Perkiö-Mäkelä
Keywords:   Agricultural work, Agriculture, Farmer, Interview, Occupational health service, Occupational safety and health, Odds ratio, Risk factor, Sustainability.


Demand for organic food has increased in recent years, and public policies have favored organic products, but little attention has been paid to the organic farmers‘ health and safety.

We found that organic farmers have lower odds of having good work ability, indicating the need for safer working conditions, particularly for farmers considering switching to organic production.

Abstract. Based on earlier studies, farmers have poorer work ability compared to workers in most other occupations. The aim of this study was to explore if organic production has a positive effect on producers‘ work ability while controlling for demographic and production characteristics. This study used telephone interview data collected by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in 2014-2015. The material consisted of 2,164 farmers: 231 in organic production and 1,933 in conventional production. Work ability was measured with a single question regarding the farmers‘ current work ability compared with their lifetime best on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 meaning unable to work. The data were analyzed using multivariable logistic regression. Organic production had a negative effect on work ability, while larger farm size, experiencing economic uncertainty rarely/never/occasionally (vs. often), age under 55 years, having occupational health coverage, and experiencing low amounts of physical strain or mental strain had positive effects in a multivariable model. While this study could not consider potential biases from the farmers‘ existing health status at the time of switching to organic production and other sources, it is clear that greater attention needs to be paid to improving worker health, safety, and wellness in organic farming.

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