Aims: To examine the prevalence of symptoms of asthma and allergy in different farming groups in New Zealand.
Methods: A postal questionnaire was sent to a random sample of 2,500 farmers throughout New Zealand.
Results: The response rate was 77% (1,706 of 2,203 eligibles). The 12-month period prevalence of current asthma was 11.8% overall, compared with 15% in the general population. Asthma prevalence was higher for horse breeders/groomers (16.5%), pig farmers (18.2%), poultry farmers (17.4%), and those working with oats (17.4%). Asthma was also significantly elevated among those working with cleaning powders (14.7%). Women were more likely to report current asthma than were men (OR 1.8, 95% CI 1.3-2.5). Hay fever was significantly higher in deer and crop farmers, and farmers working with horses and goats; eczema was higher for goat and deer farmers.
Conclusions: The lower overall prevalence of asthma in farmers may be due to the healthy worker effect. Among farmers, the types of farming associated with an elevated prevalence of asthma and allergy in New Zealand are deer and goat farming, working with horses, poultry, pigs, and crop farming. Females reported more current asthma than males.