Ag News

GFA-backed mental health pilot study results released

by Jay Stone, Georgia Farm Bureau

Posted on Dec 21, 2021 at 0:00 AM

The Georgia Foundation for Agriculture partnered with the Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center at Mercer University to study the mental well-being, stressors, and coping mechanisms for Georgians in farm occupations. The results from the organizations’ pilot survey, conducted in May and June, were released in November. A broader statewide survey is planned for January 2022.

The foundation and rural health innovation center received responses from more than 500 farm owners, farm workers, farm managers, and their spouses about mental well-being topics, including negative emotions, perceived stress, time spent worrying, conditions that cause stress and coping mechanisms.

“This preliminary research is an important first step in laying the groundwork for our foundation’s  response to this growing challenge for Georgia farmers,” GFA Executive Director Lily Baucom said. “The statewide survey will help inform our strategy on this important issue long-term.”

The study found that that although half of the farmers are happy with their occupation, they do experience a lot of stress from a variety of sources. Most farmers worry at least one to three hours per day, and about half felt loneliness, sadness, or depression, with a third feeling hopeless. Almost one-third (31%) had suicidal thoughts at least once in the past year. Less than a quarter of participants indicated they had access to a psychologist. About 12% said they would like to visit a mental health professional but have not done so yet.

The effects of COVID-19 were among the top stressors for both farm owners and farm workers. Farm workers were predominantly worried about retirement savings, while farm owners were focused on the effect of the weather on their income. Almost half of survey participants said they worried about succession planning.

Farmers who do not have access to emergency medical care, in-office routine medical care, telephone access for routine medical care, or telephone access to a psychologist had significantly higher perceived stress. Farmers who experienced the highest perceived stress were also more likely to use unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as hitting or injuring themselves, hitting or kicking things, or using over-the-counter and illicit drugs.

Two-thirds of survey participants indicated they did not have access to recreational activities generally considered to be healthy coping mechanisms.

To access the complete report, click here.

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