The Development of the Farm Stressor Inventory: Implications for Research and Preventive Intervention

  • Elliott, Michael;
  • Heaney, Catherine A.

The farm crisis of the 1980's and the Midwest Flood in 1993 have increased concern about stress-related health problems among farmers. Previous published studies and some new analyses of the Ohio Farm Family Health and Hazard Survey (OFFHHS) suggest that farmers experience high levels of occupational stress. The term "stress" best describes a process through which individuals are exposed to, appraise, and respond to difficult or threatening conditions in their social and physical environments. Previous work has focused on farmers' perceptions of stress and the symptoms that accompany high stress levels among farmers. However, there has been no valid instrument for measuring farm stressors, defined as the objective conditions or aspects of farming that are associated most strongly with high stress levels and stress-related symptoms. Little is known about the basic epidemiology of farm stressors, i.e., their prevalence, distribution, and relative impacts on health. Without such knowledge, it is difficult to develop interventions that will effectively reduce farmers' suffering due to exposure to stressors.

This paper describes the development of a new survey instrument designed to assess farm stressors, the Farm Stressor Inventory (FSI). The sources of information used for the development of the FSI included the published literature, data from farmer assistance hotlines, and data from farmer focus groups in Kentucky. The ways these information sources were used, as well as the procedures for ensuring face validity and technical quality of the survey items, will be described. The FSI is intended to measure all potentially prevalent farm stressors. Items from the following categories of stressors will be presented: personal finances, weather, regulatory climate, workload and other job demands, physical environment, control and ambiguity, interpersonal issues, and job and retirement security.

The FSI can be used to test hypotheses about the role of farm stressors in the etiology of injury and disease that heretofore could not be explored. For example, one hypothesis is that exposure to physical hazards on the farm is more likely to lead to injury when the farmer is also being exposed to psychosocial stressors. Examples of research designs incorporating the use of the FSI will be presented, emphasizing the research questions that can be answered and how the results from such studies would inform the development of prevention strategies.

This research abstract was extracted from a portion of the proceedings of "Agricultural Safety and Health: Detection, Prevention and Intervention," a conference presented by the Ohio State University and the Ohio Department of Health, sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control/National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

The authors noted above are from: Both from The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH.

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