Risk factors and prevalence of declined work ability among dairy farmers

J. P. Karttunen, R. H. Rautiainen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Farm work, particularly with livestock, exposes farmers to injuries, occupational diseases, and disabling health conditions, which in many cases result in early retirement and loss of quality of life. The objectives of this study were to evaluate the prevalence of and risk factors for declined work ability among full-time dairy farmers. We conducted a postal survey using the standard Work Ability Index (WAI) questionnaire augmented with a form containing questions about working conditions and lifestyle factors that potentially affect work ability. We received 399 usable responses (245 female and 154 male; 41.5% response rate). The prevalence of declined work ability (poor or moderate WAI score) was 39% overall, 44% among females, and 32% among males. Older age, small herd size, lack of mental breaks from work, inadequate leisure, and non-use of alcohol were significantly associated with declined work ability. The odds ratios for these risk factors ranged from 2.04 to 4.67. Current injuries and diseases are part of the WAI questionnaire contributing to declined work ability. This study indicates that interventions are needed, particularly among older farmers and farmers with injuries or diseases, to restore their work ability. Life-long measures to maintain work ability are also important, preventing the steep decline in work ability currently occurring among older farmers. Based on this study, we recommend guidance addressing the identified risk factors, particularly the importance of organizing both farm and domestic work with adequate rest, leisure time, and mental breaks as counterbalance to the daily workload among livestock farmers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)243-257
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Agricultural Safety and Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2011


  • Age
  • Agriculture
  • Dairy
  • Disease
  • Farm
  • Gender
  • Health
  • Injury
  • Livestock
  • Occupational health
  • Risk
  • Work Ability Index

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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