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Special Issue "Mental Health in Agriculture"

A special issue of International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (ISSN 1660-4601). This special issue belongs to the section "Health Care Sciences & Services".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (28 February 2021).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Andria Jones-Bitton
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
University of Guelph, 50 Stone Road East, Guelph, Ontario, Canada N1G 2W1, Canada
Interests: agriculture; epidemiology; farmers; mental health; resilience; wellness
Dr. Josie M Rudolphi
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
University of Illinois, 1304 West Pennsylvania Avenue, Urbana, Illinois, United States, 61801, USA
Interests: agriculture; mental health; occupational safety and health

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

It is well-established that agriculture is a hazardous industry; however, much of the focus to date has been on the physical risks. The mental health of people working in agriculture (e.g., farmers, ranchers, farm workers, and agribusiness) remains an important gap in knowledge. This Special Issue will focus on the mental health experiences of farmers, ranchers, and agricultural workers.

Articles in this Special Issue will relate to the large scope of mental health in agriculture. This could include but is not limited to original research on prevalence, risk/preventative factors, and/or interventions (e.g. curriculum, training), literature and/or systematic reviews and meta-analyses, and other types of studies. Articles could be qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods in nature.

Dr. Andria Jones-Bitton
Dr. Josie M Rudolphi
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2300 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Agriculture
  • Anxiety
  • Burnout
  • Depression
  • Farmer
  • Farming
  • Farm workers
  • Mental health
  • Mental illness
  • Rancher
  • Resilience
  • Rural
  • Quality of life
  • Stress
  • Stressors
  • Wellbeing
  • Wellness

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

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Article
Translating Co-Design from Face-to-Face to Online: An Australian Primary Producer Project Conducted during COVID-19
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(8), 4147; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18084147 - 14 Apr 2021
Viewed by 515
Abstract
Primary producers face considerable risks for poor mental health. While this population can be difficult to engage in programs to prevent poor mental health, approaches tailored to reflect the context of primary producers’ life and work have been successful. This paper reports on [...] Read more.
Primary producers face considerable risks for poor mental health. While this population can be difficult to engage in programs to prevent poor mental health, approaches tailored to reflect the context of primary producers’ life and work have been successful. This paper reports on the co-design phase of a project designed to prevent poor mental health for primary producers—specifically, the advantages, challenges and considerations of translating face-to-face co-design methods to an online environment in response to COVID-19 restrictions. The co-design phase drew upon the existing seven-step co-design framework developed by Trischler and colleagues. Online methods were adopted for all steps of the process. This paper models how this co-design approach can work in an online, primary producer context and details key considerations for future initiatives of this type. The development of online co-design methods is an important additional research method for use not only during a pandemic but also when operating with limited resources or geographic constraints. Results demonstrate the following: (i) co-designing online is possible given adequate preparation, training and resource allocation; (ii) “hard to reach” populations can be engaged using online methods providing there is adequate early-stage relationship building; (iii) co-design quality need not be compromised and may be improved when translating to online; and (iv) saved costs and resources associated with online methods can be realigned towards intervention/service creation, promotion and user engagement. Suggestions for extending Trischler and colleagues’ model are incorporated. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mental Health in Agriculture)
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Article
Examination of Symptoms of Depression among Cooperative Dairy Farmers
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(7), 3657; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18073657 - 01 Apr 2021
Viewed by 407
Abstract
Farmers experience a high risk of stress, depression, and suicide. Risk factors are well documented but protective factors are seldom examined. Social support has been reported to reduce psychological distress among the general population but its effect on farmers is inconclusive. Agricultural cooperatives [...] Read more.
Farmers experience a high risk of stress, depression, and suicide. Risk factors are well documented but protective factors are seldom examined. Social support has been reported to reduce psychological distress among the general population but its effect on farmers is inconclusive. Agricultural cooperatives are typically created and owned by farmers to secure markets, access supplies and services, and participate in decision-making. It is unknown whether having cooperative resources impacts symptoms of depression. A survey was used to examine whether having access to cooperative programs and social support impacted symptoms of depression among dairy farmers. Farm bankruptcies, stress, depression, and suicide were identified as ongoing concerns. Having social support and cooperative educational opportunities and mentorship programs were associated with decreased symptoms of depression. Conversely, having cooperative policy discussions was associated with increased symptoms of depression. Results suggest that social support can potentially reduce symptoms of depression among farmers and having access to cooperative resources can reduce or increase it, depending on the type of program. Our findings identified an opportunity to further examine how programs provided by farmer-led organizations such as cooperatives can impact stress, depression, and suicide among farmers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mental Health in Agriculture)
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Article
An Analysis of Suicide Risk Factors among Farmers in the Midwestern United States
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(7), 3563; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18073563 - 30 Mar 2021
Viewed by 585
Abstract
Research on the complex relationships of variables contributing to farmer suicide is limited. The purpose of the study was to examine factors associated with suicide risk through the use of standardized instruments measuring psychological (depression, anxiety), social (social support), and contextual factors. A [...] Read more.
Research on the complex relationships of variables contributing to farmer suicide is limited. The purpose of the study was to examine factors associated with suicide risk through the use of standardized instruments measuring psychological (depression, anxiety), social (social support), and contextual factors. A questionnaire was completed by 600 farmers in the Midwestern United States. A multiple linear regression model was used to analyze associations with suicide risk (SBQ-R), including depression (PHQ-9), anxiety (GAD-7), Brief COPE subscales (BC), social support (MSPSS), and select demographic and farming characteristics. The only variable that emerged as having a significant relationship with the natural log-transformed suicide risk score was coping through self-blame. While suicidality is often considered the outcome of mental illness, our findings do not suggest that suicide risk among farmers is related to mental illness, and a further examination of self-blame as a coping strategy is warranted. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mental Health in Agriculture)
Article
Tailored Mental Health Literacy Training Improves Mental Health Knowledge and Confidence among Canadian Farmers
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(11), 3807; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17113807 - 27 May 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1682
Abstract
This study evaluated the impact of “In the Know” mental health literacy training for Canadian agriculture. We hypothesized that “In the Know” would significantly increase participants’ knowledge around mental health, confidence in recognizing mental health struggles, confidence in speaking about mental health with [...] Read more.
This study evaluated the impact of “In the Know” mental health literacy training for Canadian agriculture. We hypothesized that “In the Know” would significantly increase participants’ knowledge around mental health, confidence in recognizing mental health struggles, confidence in speaking about mental health with others, and confidence in helping someone who may be struggling with mental health. “In the Know” was a 4-h, in-person program delivered by a mental health professional who also had experience in agriculture. Six sessions were offered in Ontario, Canada in 2018. Participants were farmers and/or worked primarily with farmers. A pre-training paper questionnaire was administered, followed by a post-training questionnaire at the end of the session and 3 and 6 month post-training questionnaires via email. Wilcoxon signed-rank tests were performed to compare participants’ self-reported knowledge and confidence across four timepoints. “In the Know” significantly improved participants’ self-reported mental health knowledge and confidence in recognizing mental health struggles, speaking to others, and helping others who are struggling immediately following training and often at 3 and 6 months post-training. This is the first study among farming populations to measure program impact with 3- and 6-month follow-ups. Given the reported associations between mental health literacy and increased help-seeking, disseminating “In the Know” more broadly across farming communities may help to increase mental health literacy and thus increase help-seeking among farmers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mental Health in Agriculture)
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Article
Suicide in Rural Australia: Are Farming-Related Suicides Different?
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(6), 2010; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17062010 - 18 Mar 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2035
Abstract
Rural Australians experience a range of health inequities—including higher rates of suicide—when compared to the general population. This retrospective cohort study compares demographic characteristics and suicide death circumstances of farming- and non-farming-related suicides in rural Victoria with the aim of: (a) exploring the [...] Read more.
Rural Australians experience a range of health inequities—including higher rates of suicide—when compared to the general population. This retrospective cohort study compares demographic characteristics and suicide death circumstances of farming- and non-farming-related suicides in rural Victoria with the aim of: (a) exploring the contributing factors to farming-related suicide in Australia’s largest agricultural producing state; and (b) examining whether farming-related suicides differ from suicide in rural communities. Farming-related suicide deaths were more likely to: (a) be employed at the time of death (52.6% vs. 37.7%, OR = 1.84, 95% CIs 1.28–2.64); and, (b) have died through use of a firearm (30.1% vs. 8.7%, OR = 4.51, 95% CIs 2.97–6.92). However, farming-related suicides were less likely to (a) have a diagnosed mental illness (36.1% vs. 46.1%, OR=0.66, 95% CIs 0.46–0.96) and, (b) have received mental health support more than six weeks prior to death (39.8% vs. 50.0%, OR = 0.66, 95% CIs 0.46–0.95). A range of suicide prevention strategies need adopting across all segments of the rural population irrespective of farming status. However, data from farming-related suicides highlight the need for targeted firearm-related suicide prevention measures and appropriate, tailored and accessible support services to support health, well-being and safety for members of farming communities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mental Health in Agriculture)
Article
Farmer Burnout in Canada
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(24), 5074; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16245074 - 12 Dec 2019
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1363
Abstract
While farmers in several countries worldwide are reported to be at higher risk for poor mental health outcomes like chronic stress, depression, and anxiety, there is a paucity of research on burnout in farmers. This cross-sectional study used an online survey administered between [...] Read more.
While farmers in several countries worldwide are reported to be at higher risk for poor mental health outcomes like chronic stress, depression, and anxiety, there is a paucity of research on burnout in farmers. This cross-sectional study used an online survey administered between September 2015 and February 2016 to investigate burnout (as measured by the Maslach Burnout Inventory–General Survey (MBI–GS)) amongst farmers in Canada. The specific objectives were to measure the three components of burnout (exhaustion, cynicism, and professional efficacy), and to explore potential associated risk factors, as well as to determine the prevalence of the different burnout profiles (engaged, ineffective, overextended, disengaged, and burnout). MBI–GS results were obtained from 1075 farmers. Approximately 70% of the study sample identified as male and 30% as female, and participants were from a variety of farming commodities. Scores for exhaustion, cynicism, and professional efficacy were all higher than international norms. While 43% of participants were classified as engaged, 44% were classified in the ineffective, overextended, or disengaged profiles (i.e., intermediate profiles on the engagement – burnout continuum), and 12% were classified in the burnout profile. Risk factor results highlighted the positive effects of farmer support from spouse/romantic partner, friends, and industry. Overall, the results from this study demonstrate cause for concern with respect to farmer burnout, suggest potential avenues for intervention, and serve as a call to action to better support farmers in Canada. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mental Health in Agriculture)
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Article
Highs and Lows of Lambing Time: Sheep Farmers’ Perceptions of the First Outbreak of Schmallenberg Disease in South West England on Their Well-Being
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(24), 5057; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16245057 - 11 Dec 2019
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 958
Abstract
The outbreak of a previously unknown and new disease in the United Kingdom, known as ‘Schmallenberg disease’, a disease associated with abortions, stillbirths and fetal deformities in naïve ewes, was reported for the first time in South West England during the 2012/13 early [...] Read more.
The outbreak of a previously unknown and new disease in the United Kingdom, known as ‘Schmallenberg disease’, a disease associated with abortions, stillbirths and fetal deformities in naïve ewes, was reported for the first time in South West England during the 2012/13 early lambing season. Epidemiological studies confirmed that the Schmallenberg virus (SBV) had a severe negative impact upon animal welfare and the productivity of affected flocks. By contrast, there was a specific lack of research on the impact of SBV on sheep farmer well-being. This study aimed to improve our understanding of sheep farmers’ experiences of Schmallenberg disease, and the impact of the first outbreak on sheep farmer well-being during the 2012/13 early lambing season in South West England. Face-to-face, semi-structured interviews with six farmers with small flocks of pedigree and purebred sheep in South West England were conducted in 2013. The data were analysed via thematic analysis. The main themes regarding the impact of disease on farmer well-being included: (i) emotional highs and lows are part of a normal lambing season; (ii) negative emotions and memories associated with the Schmallenberg disease outbreak; and (iii) resilience and coping with the unexpected disease outbreak. These novel data present preliminary findings from a small number of sheep farmers, and indicate that for some farmers, an unexpected outbreak of a new and emerging disease for the first time during lambing, and dealing with high levels of dystocia, deformities and deaths in their animals, had a negative impact on their emotional well-being during the peak period of the sheep production cycle. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mental Health in Agriculture)
Article
Who and How: Exploring the Preferred Senders and Channels of Mental Health Information for Wisconsin Farmers
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(20), 3836; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16203836 - 11 Oct 2019
Viewed by 1208
Abstract
Unfavorable economic and environmental conditions have fueled the development of mental health resources and services for farmers. However, it is unclear who farmers want mental health information from (senders) and how they want mental health information delivered (channels). A self-administered questionnaire was used [...] Read more.
Unfavorable economic and environmental conditions have fueled the development of mental health resources and services for farmers. However, it is unclear who farmers want mental health information from (senders) and how they want mental health information delivered (channels). A self-administered questionnaire was used to determine the preferred senders of mental health information and the preferred channels of mental health information. Farmers were most receptive to receiving mental health information from medical providers, spouses/family members, and friends. Among the channels of information, respondents were interested in receiving mental health information from farm newspapers/magazines and one-on-one in person. Our findings have pragmatic implications for agricultural safety and health and public health organizations working to disseminate mental health information to farmers. Receptiveness to specific senders and channels of information among farmers should inform resource dispersion and future intervention. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mental Health in Agriculture)

Review

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Review
A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Depression among Farming Populations Worldwide
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(24), 9376; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17249376 - 15 Dec 2020
Viewed by 545
Abstract
A systematic review and meta-analysis were conducted to determine the overall prevalence of depression among farming populations globally, and explore any heterogeneity present. Eligible studies were primary research articles published in English, which involved the collection of data for the purpose of determining [...] Read more.
A systematic review and meta-analysis were conducted to determine the overall prevalence of depression among farming populations globally, and explore any heterogeneity present. Eligible studies were primary research articles published in English, which involved the collection of data for the purpose of determining the prevalence of depression among a farming population. Four relevant databases were searched in January 2019. Potential for bias was assessed using a modified Quality Assessment of Diagnostic Accuracy Studies (QUADAS) tool. From 7662 records, 72 articles were deemed relevant and had data extracted. Of these, 45 utilized the Center for Epidemiologic Studies—Depression Revised scale (CES-D/DR) to quantify depression, 42 of which were conducted in the United States (U.S.). As a result, meta-analyses were restricted to this geographic location. Substantial heterogeneity was seen in the initial whole-group analysis (I2 = 97%), and while sub-group exploration suggested a significantly higher prevalence of depression among migrant farm workers (26%, 95% CI = 21–31%) than in studies examining a non-migrant farming population (12%, 95% CI = 8–17%), substantial heterogeneity remained (I2 = 96%), indicating that the majority of between study variation was due to factors other than sampling error. Additionally, the majority of studies (81%) in migrant farm worker populations were published since 2010, while only 21% of studies in non-migrant farming populations were published in this timeframe. It is possible with recent efforts to de-stigmatize mental illness, participants in more recent studies may be more likely to self-report depressive symptoms. Hence, while it appears that migrant farmworker populations may have an elevated prevalence of depression, it is also apparent that little research in the U.S. has been done to evaluate depression among non-migrant farming populations in recent years. Perhaps a reporting bias may account for some of the difference between the two populations. A research gap also appears to exist in estimating the prevalence of depression among farming populations outside of the US. Assessment for bias at the study level revealed challenges in reporting of key study design elements, as well as potential for selection bias in the majority of studies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mental Health in Agriculture)
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