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Sovereign urges farmers to be proactive about their health

Sovereign urges farmers to be proactive about their health

The rural community need to take charge of their health to overcome some of the physical and mental health issues they are currently facing, many of which are preventable, according to New Zealand’s largest life insurer Sovereign.

“New Zealand’s rural population is facing increasing weight, cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure, according to a health screening programme conducted by Dairy NZ and NZ Institute of Rural Health. These are all eminently treatable illnesses that many people can avoid if they take care of their diet, exercise and sleep,” says Sovereign Chief Medical Officer Dr John Mayhew.

Sovereign hopes to raise awareness of some of these issues and inspire farmers to take charge of their health through involvement at Fieldays, the largest agricultural expo in the Southern Hemisphere.

The company picked up sponsorship of the Rural Bachelor of the Year competition this year and has tailored heats to focus on health and wellbeing. Contestants will learn how to have fun getting fit during a boot camp with Sovereign healthy living ambassador Nicola Smith and be challenged to create the healthiest smoothies in a kitchen competition.

“It’s a bit of fun that will get people thinking about how they can start making small changes to their lifestyle. We are all good at making excuses, but our health is at stake so let’s do something about it before we need help fixing it,” says Dr Mayhew.

Dr Mayhew also points out findings from the 2015 Sovereign Wellbeing Index (a landmark study into how New Zealanders are faring on a personal and social level), which discovered the critical role community connections play in our lives.

“The study revealed that through building a support network of colleagues, neighbours and community groups we gain more resilience and are better equipped to deal with hard times in our lives. Almost 40% of Kiwis only meet with others socially once a month or less,” says Dr Mayhew.

In addition to issues around physical health, Sovereign works closely with the Mental Health Foundation to raise awareness of mental health issues, particularly relevant to the rural sector which experiences higher than average levels of depression and suicide.

“It’s clear farmers face a number of stressors managing high debt levels, experiencing uncertainties in their business, maintaining work/life balance and living far away from community facilities,” says Mental Health Foundation director of policy and development Hugh Norriss.

“As ongoing stress can increase the risk of mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, we encourage farmers to take steps to look after their mental health and wellbeing to equip them with the resilience they need to overcome adversity. The new Farmstrong website provides excellent information on how to do this.”

Dr Mayhew adds that starting conversations about mental health is one of the first steps towards broadening awareness of some of these issues.

“If people are more open to talking about it, looking out for those early warning signs and, as the Sovereign Wellbeing Index suggests, connecting with those around us it will go a long way to assisting with some of these figures. It’s a big issue not only for the rural community, but the country as a whole. At Sovereign, mental illness is the number one condition for disability income claims, making up more than 30% or $33 million in the last year,” says Dr Mayhew.

Fieldays takes place in Mystery Creek from June 10-13. For more information visit:


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