Canadian Farmers More Stressed, Study Shows

CANADA - Farmers are among the most vulnerable when it comes to mental health, according to a new study from the University of Guelph.
calendar icon 4 July 2016
clock icon 3 minute read

Stress, anxiety, depression, emotional exhaustion and burnout are all higher among farmers than among other groups, early findings of the survey show.

As well, Canadian farmers are more stressed than those living and working elsewhere.

Prof Andria Jones-Bitton, a professor in the Department of Population Medicine, analysed more than 1,100 responses from across Canada to an online stress and resilience survey, conducted on agricultural producers from September 2015 to this past January.

“Some of the producer comments leave little doubt about the impact their job and culture is having on them,” Prof Jones-Bitton said.

“One said, ‘We are not invincible, but we feel we must be’.”

The survey found 45 per cent of survey respondents had high stress. Another 58 per cent were classified with varying levels of anxiety, and 35 per cent with depression.

Overall, that’s two to four times higher than farmers studied in the United Kingdom and Norway, Prof Jones-Bitton said.

Resilience, popularly believed to be a strength among producers, is also lower among two-thirds of the respondents than it is among a comparative US population.

In agriculture, a stigma is associated with mental health treatment, Jones-Bitton said.

So it follows that the survey showed 40 per cent of respondents said they’d feel uneasy getting professional help “because of what people might think.”

At the same time, more than three-quarters of those surveyed said professional mental services can be helpful in times of struggle.

Prof Jones-Bitton is building a team to deliver mental health training for farmers.

“We need to do something,” she says. “Farmers want help, and we’re going to find ways for them to receive it.”

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