Perceived Stress and Depression Among Cash Grain Farmers in Ohio

  • Bean, Thomas;
  • Wilkins III, J.R.;
  • Elliott, Michael;
  • Heaney, Catherine A.;
  • Wilkins, G. L.

There are two schools of thought regarding farm family stress. One holds that farmers are less stressed than other workers because of the idyllic pastoral setting in which they work. A second cites numerous stressors that are unique to the farm environment (e.g., adverse economic conditions and unpredictable weather) and claims that farming is a stressful occupation. Although small scale studies of farm stress have been conducted using farm specific stress measures, no previous study has been able to directly compare a large representative farming population with national norms. The Ohio Farm Family Health and Hazard Surveillance Project (OFFHHS), a survey of 4,860 cash grain farms in Ohio, provides an opportunity to make this comparison, and to study the correlates of stress and depression among farmers.

The 10 item Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) and the 20 item Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CESD) were used as dependent measures. Only male principal operators (n=1388) were used in this analysis. Data from the OFFHHS are compared with data from the First National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Epidemiologic Follow-up Study (NHEFS), and with data collected by the author of the PSS from a national representative sample.

Age adjusted results indicate that the farmers were statistically significantly more stressed (xfarmer=12.42, xnational=11.75, x1158=2.85) and more depressed (xfarmer=4.53, xnational=3.71, x2548=4.22) than a national sample of employed, non-disabled males. Preliminary results on the correlates of farm stress indicated that age was inversely related to stress. Principal operators with large farms and low earnings reported higher levels of stress than those with small farms and low earnings. Surprisingly, farmers who worked full time on the farm and also held down an additional full-time job scored lower on the stress measure than those full-time farmers who worked off farm only part-time or not at all. Significant correlates of depression included education and age, each being inversely related to depression. Principal operators of large farms who had low earnings scored higher on the depression scale than operators of small farms with low earnings. Lower depression scores were related to working more hours off of the farm.

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: All from The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH.

Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in NASD appears by permission of the author and/or copyright holder. More