Farmers' survey reveals high rates of mental health difficulties

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Guelph found many farmers struggle with mental health issues. The survey was conducted between September 2015 and January and polled more than 1,100 farmers from across Canada about stress, anxiety, depression, burnout and resilience.

Rates of stress, anxiety, depression all higher than average

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Guelph found that many farmers struggle with mental health issues. (Geoff Robins/Canadian Press)

A survey by researchers at the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph shows farmers are reporting high rates of mental health challenges. 

The survey was conducted between September 2015 and January 2016 and polled more than 1,100 farmers from across Canada about issues like stress, anxiety, depression, burnout and resilience.

The survey found about 60 per cent of farmers experienced anxiety at various levels, 35 per cent suffered from depression and 45 per cent had high stress, all higher than rates reported by the general population. 

The numbers were also about two to four times higher than those reported by farmers in the U.K and Norway.

Several sources of stress

"We probably don't think about it very often, but when you consider all of the stresses that our farmers are under, these results perhaps aren't that surprising," said Andria Jones-Bitton, an assistant professor with the department of population medicine at the University of Guelph and lead researcher on the survey project.

She said those stresses include isolation, crop and livestock diseases, inclement and changing weather, shifting economies and significant financial burden.

"They compound on one another and contribute to the issues we're seeing," Jones-Bitton said.

A second phase of the research will look at tackling mental health stigma among farmers, increasing mental health literacy and developing an emergency response model to respond to farmers during agricultural crisis.

"It's something that we're beginning to pay more attention to," Jones-Bitton said. "And I think it's a good thing."

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