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The Administrative Data Research Network is an ESRC-funded project that ran from October 2013 - July 2018. It is currently at the end of its funding cycle and is no longer taking applications. Administrative data research will be taken forward in a new project, to be launched later in 2018.

Sociodemographic characteristics, educational attainment and self-reported health status of farmers in Northern Ireland

Research Overview

One of the strategic goals of the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) is to improve the lives of rural dwellers including farmers and farming households, and previous research has indicated that farmers are at higher risk of poor health than other rural workers due to the impact of factors such as long working hours, hard physical work, isolation and risk of accidents.  Another major Departmental policy aim is to improve the overall level of expertise and education among the farming population, and in particular farmers’ IT literacy and ability to access online business-related tools.  This is an area of high priority because an increasing number of farm business transactions and access to DAERA advice and services can be conducted more cheaply online. 


The findings of this study will be used to inform government policy and will assist in resource targeting and outcome monitoring of both existing and future DARD policies and programmes. Should particular groups or areas be identified in which farmers have poorer health (over and above what would be expected based on demographics and other factors), recommendations will be made to target several current assistance programmes (e.g. Farm Family Health Checks Programme) towards these areas and groups. Similarly, information on the educational attainment, economic status and working hours of farmers will provide evidence of need, establish robust baseline information and aid in targeting and monitoring projects aimed at raising skills, encouraging diversification, business creation and development in the farming community. The scope of the project will be outlined and progress reported. 

More about the research

This research, led by members of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), will use the Administrative Data Research Network to access linked data from Northern Ireland’s Agricultural Census 2010 and Population Census 2011 to provide a range of social and demographic information on the farming community. The study aims to provide information on the characteristics of farmers in Northern Ireland in order to promote equality and good relations in the administration of grants, subsidies and schemes for the farming community. Of particular interest is self-reported health status and educational attainment of farmers. Models will be developed to investigate associations between these variables and farm business size, farm activity type, land type, remoteness and socio-demographic profiles of farmers.

Government departments

Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, NISRA

Date Approved

April 2015

Research team

Patricia McDowell (Department of Agriculture and Rural Development)

Conor McCormack (Department of Agriculture and Rural Development)

David Wright (Administrative Data Research Centre Northern Ireland, Queen's University Belfast)

Paul Caskie (Department of Agriculture and Rural Development)

Page last updated: 24/10/2017