The mental health of farmers

Rural Mental Health Research, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK.
Occupational Medicine (Impact Factor: 1.03). 01/2003; 52(8):471-6. DOI: 10.1093/occmed/52.8.471
Source: PubMed


Farmers are subject to a number of unique occupational stressors, many of which have been aggravated in recent years by changes in farming practice and by economic factors. These are probably part of the explanation for the high rates of suicide in farmers and farm workers, which in the UK account for the largest number of suicides in any occupational group. Suicide is usually associated with mental illness, which, in farming communities, appears to be particularly stigmatized and poorly understood. This affects health-seeking behaviour, which is compounded by the geographical isolation and inaccessibility of many services in rural areas. Our current understanding of these issues suggests a number of potentially valuable interventions.

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    • "Time pressures are not only related to the amount of work that farmers have to do, as illustrated by long working hours, but are rendered particularly stressful because of the unpredictability and the seasonal variation in the workload. The most important stressors in farmers' lives appear to be worries about finance (Hawton, Simkin & Malmberg, 1998) and the burden of paperwork and administration (McGregor, Willock & Deary, 1995; Gregoire, 2002). In other industries scholars have explored the relationship between business performance and concepts similar to mood. "

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    • "Consistent with other publications regarding rural studies (Faria et al., 1999; Gregoire, 2002) or studies with the general population (Costa et al., 2002), women have higher MPD prevalence than men, even when analysing SRQ-20 using a higher cut-off point for women. In their validation study Mari and Williams (1986) recommended a lower score for men (due to a higher false negative rate in men) considering gender differences in illness behaviour. "
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    ABSTRACT: Introduction: Exposure to pesticides has been associated with psychiatric problems among farm workers, although there is still controversy as to chemical types, intensity and forms of exposure that represent risk factors for neuropsychological problems. Furthermore, tobacco workers are exposed to dermal absorption of nicotine, although its effect on mental health has not yet been studied. Objectives: To identify the prevalence of minor psychiatric disorders (MPD) among tobacco farmers and associated factors, paying special attention to pesticide and nicotine exposure. Methods: This is a cross-sectional study with a representative sample of tobacco growers, characterizing economic indicators of the farms, socio-demographic factors, lifestyle habits and occupational exposures. Multivariate analysis was performed using a hierarchical Poisson regression model. Results: A total of 2400 tobacco farmers were assessed and MPD prevalence was 12%. MPD was higher among women (PR 1.4), workers aged 40 or over, tenants/employees (PR 1.8) and those who reported having difficulty in paying debts (PR 2.0). Low socioeconomic status was inversely associated with MPD prevalence. Tasks involving dermal exposure to pesticides showed risk varying between 35% and 71%, whereas tobacco growers on farms using organophosphates had 50% more risk of MPD than those not exposed to this kind of pesticide. The number of pesticide poisoning and green tobacco sickness episodes showed linear association with MPD. Conclusions: The study reinforces the evidence of the association between pesticide poisoning and mental health disorders. It also points to increased risk of MPD from low socioeconomic status, dermal pesticide exposure as well as from exposure to organophosphates. Furthermore, the study reveals intense nicotine exposure as a risk for tobacco farmers' mental health. (C) 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc.
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    • "This discursive framework connects structural conditions with farm men by establishing linear connections between economy , financial stress, mental illness and suicide. Within this framework a psychosocial problematization dominates with an emphasis on stress and depression, help-seeking behaviour and social conditions that contribute to poor mental health such as lack of service provision in rural areas, social isolation and social change (Alston, 2007; Berry et al., 2011; Gregoire, 2002; Guiney, 2012; Judd et al., 2006; Meyer and Lobao, 2003; Monk, 2000; Staniford et al., 2009). "
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    ABSTRACT: In the international literature farmer stress, mental illness and suicide are linked to economic conditions affecting farm viability that have emerged in relation to the neoliberal transformation, corporatization and globalization of agribusiness juxtaposed with climate change and concerns over environmental sustainability and periodic agricultural crises. Research and scholarship in this area has largely been framed through mental health frameworks informed by positivist and ‘psy’ discourses that marginalize ethical, political and emotional dynamics that shape farmer distress. At the margins of this dominant discursive framework however, interdisciplinary scholarship is emerging that problematizes farmer distress and suicide. This paper extends and contributes to this body of scholarship through insights derived from critical consideration of the operation of a moral economy in relation to farmer distress. It draws on elements of Andrew Sayer's work, which poses intersections between moral economy, political economy and wellbeing, to analyse empirical data from interviews with Australian wine grape growers experiencing distress. The paper demonstrates that in this case study, emotional distress arises from ethical breaches within social and economic relations between farmers, corporations and the State. In doing so, it brings the ethical and emotional dimensions of economic activity to the fore and thus calls for the problematization of social and political responses to farmer distress and suicide prevention.
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