New research data from Waterford Institute of Technology finds that almost half of Irish racehorse trainers meet the threshold indicative of a common mental disorder.
This is the first study of its kind in Ireland, and one of very few globally, to explore racehorse trainer mental health.
The study obtained data from 124 racehorse trainers in Ireland (almost 30 percent).
Funded by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB), the study was conducted by Lewis King, PhD student at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT). It is published in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science.
The study suggests that the prevalence of symptoms of common mental disorder (CMD) may be greater among racehorse trainers than other rural occupations such as farming. Prevalence rates of depression (41percent), adverse alcohol use (38 percent), distress (26 percent), and anxiety (18 percent) were observed.
The study also explored potential risk factors for CMD prevalence. Findings indicated that career dissatisfaction, lower levels of social support, and financial difficulties increased the likelihood of meeting the threshold for depression, distress, and anxiety.
Racehorse trainers play an important role within the racing industry but the occupation is not without its difficulties. Trainers are under pressure from owners to ensure horses perform at a high standard. They are also required to manage staff and take responsibility for each horse’s welfare in their respective yards.
In Ireland, racing is extremely competitive, therefore accurately placing horses in the right races is important in an attempt to maximise prize money income. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, prize money has reduced significantly placing further pressure on racehorse trainers.
Project lead Lewis King spoke about the recently published findings:
“The work hopefully raises awareness of the challenges that racehorse trainers face, and highlights that support strategies and programmes are needed.
“The risk factors we identified may improve early identification of CMDs which can facilitate early diagnosis or signposting to mental health support services.
“We hope that this research encourages other organisations to explore racehorse trainer mental health within their specific jurisdictions. Future research studies should consider other occupational stressors and their influence on CMD prevalence, and moving beyond symptom prevalence to more global aspects of mental health such as protective factors, stigma, and identity.”
Alongside Lewis King, the research team included Dr Sarah Jane Cullen (WIT), Dr Siobhan O’Connor (DCU), Dr Adrian McGoldrick (IHRB), Dr Jennifer Pugh (IHRB), Dr Giles Warrington (University of Limerick), and Dr Ciara Losty (WIT).
Link to publication: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0737080621000538
SOURCE: Materials provided by WIT
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