Loneliness is real for many farmers

with Don Fraser
Fraser Farm Finance

I was inspired to write about loneliness after reading in the NZ Herald recently that living alone was less than ideal for most. Being socially connected and around people improved their health by an amazing 75 per cent. That then got me thinking about farmers having a lonely life and mental health issues and suicides.

When you google loneliness and isolation, the often-asked questions are: What does loneliness and isolation mean? Can you really die of loneliness? So, loneliness is real.  Farmers get up early and often spend much of the day working on their own, particularly if they are ‘sole traders’ or farmers that largely do most of the work on their own. How does days of working in isolation affect their mental health and ability to communicate? Put on top of that an empty marriage relationship, and it gets real quiet. You’re out on-farm working with a myriad of decisions and jobs to do to find the failing relationship and communication style is going round and round in your head.

Able to talk

Once you’re able to verbalise your concerns the stress in your head vanishes or diminishes.  I guess that’s where it is essential that men, particularly, are able to talk to their partner or have a supportive men’s network which is less common in the rural sector. Many farmers unconsciously choose to be farmers because they are introverts. Introverts shy away from public contact and prefer to be on their own. Does that then become their downfall when it all gets quieter and quieter and they are unable to communicate their concerns and feelings?

Generally, women are happier on their own than men. Men seem to be more needy, and look around to replace a relationship break-up as soon as they can. Men hate being lonely. It is an insidious feeling of hopelessness, isolation and emptiness for anyone. It can be very frightening and make you feel very panicky. If you take that a step further could it just be a prerequisite to anxiety, depression and maybe suicide?

Coffee group

A good friend of mine was great fun, but always stressed and difficult. He often sprouted: ‘You don’t go out for coffee, that’s a waste of time’. Well, one day he sat with us at a local coffee shop and met all and sundry and suddenly two hours had vanished, and he realised he was not lonely and was having fun. He went home and started his own bloke’s coffee group. They meet Monday, Wednesday and Friday for as long as it takes. Now they call themselves the ROMEOs – short for Retired Old Men Eating Out. Do they talk about prostate, relationships, cars, politics and feeling lonely? You bet they do. Is he better? He sure is.

In summary, loneliness is an insidious feeling, it can bring on all sorts of issues that may include anxiety, depression and even suicide. The remedy would include ‘stepping over’ those feelings and finding someone to talk to. It might even include a coffee group. Not being so lonely will definitely improve your health.

Disclaimer – these are the opinions of Don Fraser of Fraser Farm Finance. Any decisions made should not be based on this article alone and appropriate professional assistance should be sought.  Don Fraser is the Principal of Fraser Farm Finance and a consultant to the farming industry. Contact him on 021 777 675.


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