To better understand how to reduce injury and illnesses in Midwestern farmers, researchers at the University of Iowa College of Public Health asked farmers to identify their own perspectives regarding hazards and stressors associated with their work.

Nearly half of the 540 responding farmers made specific requests for information on safe chemical handling, storage and use and information about the effect of farming chemicals have on health.

The study identified that Midwestern farmers’ top safety concerns focused on farm chemical safety, equipment and tools, and specific health conditions experienced by farmers.

Farmers also expressed their concerns regarding the safety of equipment and tools, with specific concerns on entanglement hazards and maintaining old equipment in safe operating condition. More than one-third of those surveyed had questions regarding health outcomes associated with farming exposures, including respiratory health, hearing loss, depression, pain and acute illnesses.

To obtain insights into stressors of farmer mental health, the survey also asked farmers to identify what is causing stress on the farm. Unsurprisingly, finances dominated the responses (45%), with market/commodity prices the most frequently identified stressor. However, farmers further identified climate/weather (22%) and workload and labor concerns (16%).

Additional farmers reported being stressed about family and personal issues, farm-specific activities, health and safety, regulations and politics, and aging. Discussions with farmers about multiple factors, particularly in times of economic uncertainty and weather extremes, may be recommended to diffuse anxiety in order to promote mental health among farmers.

The Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health, one of 11 national agricultural safety programs funded by the Center for Disease Control, has compiled information across many of these topics to help farmers address their concerns and reduce stressors. For more information, click here and select “resources” from the menu options.

Complete survey results, published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers in the Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health, are available online. 

Illinois Farm Bureau provides mental health and wellness resources. Click here to learn more.