Date of Award


Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (Research)


Institute of Technology, Tralee

First Advisor

Dr. Tom Farrelly

Second Advisor

Ms. Sinéad Flaherty


Aim/Background: Beliefs and attitudes about health directly and indirectly influence concomitant behaviours, practices and health outcomes. In Ireland, male farmers are experiencing a disproportionate burden of ill health in preventable lifestyle diseases, yet there is a lack of behavioural research in relation to male farmers and their health. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine the health beliefs, attitudes and practices of male farmers in rural Kerry, and to explore healthcare professionals' insights of male farmers' health beliefs, attitudes and practices.

Methodology: The study adopted a mixed methods design. Phase one of the study involved structured interviews with male farmers (n=147) across three different research sites (livestock marts) in February 2016 in County Kerry. The second phase of this study took place in June 2016, in Kerry, and consisted of semi-structured interviews with eleven healthcare professionals from a variety of disciplines.

Findings: The quantitative phase of the study found that although the majority (61.2%, n=90) of male farmers attended their GP, there was a smaller cohort (37.4%, n=55) of men who either exhibited delayed help seeking practices (23.8%, n=35) or never sought help, even though they believed they should have done so (13.6%, n=20). Participants delayed help seeking behaviours were influenced by the level of perceived seriousness that they attached to health issues. Additionally, the beliefs and attitudes (to ignore the symptoms and to believe it was not serious) directly influenced these farmers (health practices) in not seeking help at an earlier stage. The qualitative findings revealed a strong consensus among healthcare professionals that farmers 'lacked ownership' of their health and relied heavily on a 'female significant other' in relation to their health.

Conclusion: This study raised important questions that necessitate further investigation in regards to male farmers delayed help seeking practices. The research concluded that further qualitative research is required with male farmers to determine the influence of health beliefs and attitudes on their concomitant behaviours, practices, and, thus, health outcomes, and to explore the concepts of responsibility and ownership of health with farmers themselves.


Submitted to Quality and Qualifications Ireland, (QQI), February 2018.

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