Study of Health in Agricultural Work (SHAW)


The Study of Health in Agricultural Work is an ongoing project that commenced in 2002, to study the health of farmers and other agricultural workers. This work is jointly funded by the Department of Health and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). The aim of the study is to determine the excess risk, if present, of work-related illness such as nervous system disease, in farmers. The study was initiated by recommendations of the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT) for further research in key areas of agro-chemical exposures, including the potential effects of low-level exposure.

Scope of the study

There is concern about the possible long-term health effects of work in farming and the associated exposure to certain chemicals. The Study of Health in Agricultural Work (SHAW) is being undertaken by the Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group, University of Manchester in response to these concerns. The project will study people who were farmers in 1970, following them through to the present day to determine the prevalence of certain illnesses amongst farmers.

This study will benefit both current and former farmers by helping to establish whether or not changes in physical or psychological health are hazards of their occupation, and assisting in identifying the circumstances that might contribute towards any adverse health effects.

Why is there a need for the study?

There have been previous studies undertaken that have attempted to address the issue of occupational exposure and ill-health in agriculture, but a number of limitations of these epidemiological studies have been noted. These have included:

  • Small sample size
  • Participation bias
  • Exclusion of individuals too ill to continue working
  • Insufficient control of potential confounders

Thus the work of this study is particularly concerned with addressing the weaknesses of these previous key studies, to provide scientifically sound results for further interpretation.

Core research team

Director of the Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health
Professor Raymond Agius
Tel: +44(0)161 275 5522

SHAW Lead Investigator
Dr Andy Povey
Tel: +44(0)161 275 5232

Organisations of interest

The identification of suitable farmers for inclusion in the study is to be undertaken with the co-operation of a number of UK organisations, including the following:

For further details, see: COT report (1999)

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