Tuesday, April 16, 2024
9.1 C
HomeFarming NewsFarm stressors impact mental health of adolescent children – new study
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnanehttps://www.thatsfarming.com/
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Farm stressors impact mental health of adolescent children – new study

Farm stress impacts the whole family – adults and adolescent children – preliminary results from a new five-year study from a US-based university suggest.

The study, spearheaded by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, explored how specific economic stressors impact the mental health of US farmers and their adolescent children.

The paper, entitled Mental health of agricultural adolescents and adults: Preliminary results of a five-year study, authored by Josie Rudolphi and Richard Berg, has been published in Frontiers in Public Health.

The study is five years in duration and is funded by the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety (NCCRAHS).

Research indicates that farmers often experience higher levels of anxiety and depression compared to the general population, but less is known about the effects on their families.

To delve deeper, researchers conducted online surveys with farmers and their adolescent children across the United States.

- Advertisement -

They utilised the Family Stress Model, which was developed in Iowa in the 1990s after the farm crisis, to examine the correlation between economic stressors and mental health in farmers.

So, what did the results find?

About 60% of both adults and adolescents met the criteria for at least mild depression, while 55% of adults and 45% of adolescents met the criteria for generalised anxiety disorder.

When looking at economic hardship indicators, farm debt showed a high correlation with depressed mood in adults, and this, in turn, was correlated with adolescent depression and anxiety.

Interestingly, despite 82% of respondents rating their own mental health as excellent or good, their responses to questions measuring symptoms of anxiety and depression revealed different results.

Researchers suggested that people may have become accustomed to living with mild or moderate depression, perceiving it as their new normal.

One of the most important findings in the current study is the strong correlation between adult depression and adolescent depression.

This, researchers report, underscores the need to develop resources and services for the entire farm family.

Researchers are currently in their third year of data collection, and they continue to expand the number of participants.

They aim to establish stronger connections between economic stressors and mental health in future data analyses.

Children not immune to stressors

Josie Rudolphi, Illinois Extension specialist and assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, said:

“There are a lot of young people growing up on a farm and participating in agricultural work.”

“We have long acknowledged the inherent hazards of this work environment, and now we are also recognizing its impact on mental health.”

“Most of the work on farm stress and mental health is primarily focused on adult farmers.”

“However, it is important to recognize that children are fully aware of what is happening on the farm, and they are not immune to the stressors that exist. That is the inspiration behind this project,” she added.

Impact on children and spouses

Rudolphi and co-author Richard Berg, analyst at the Marshfield Clinic Research Institute, commented that it is not unexpected for children to be impacted by the experiences of adults.

“In many other settings, adults can leave work, return home, and transition into their roles as parents.”

“But in a farm environment, the boardroom table is the kitchen table, and there is talk about farm activity in the household.”

“There is a blur between work and family, or business and residence, so it becomes rather complicated,” they noted.

Illinois Extension offers a number of mental health programmes for the agricultural community, but many of them primarily target the owner-operators, farmers themselves.

But, on the foot of the results from this study, researchers believe that we must also consider the well-being of spouses and children on the farm.

Other farming news articles on That’s Farming:

- Advertisment -

Most Popular