Harvesting Happiness: a Closer Look into Rural Farmers' Mental Health
The current state of rural Alabama farmers’ and agricultural workers’ mental health was examined. To create an objective assessment, farmers and agricultural workers completed a series of established questionnaires, including: the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Survey, the Lubben Social Network Scale, the Brief Multidimensional Measure of Religion and Spirituality, and the Patient Health Questionnaire 9. The participants also answered open-ended questions about any changes in their life due to the COVID-19 pandemic that began in 2020. Therefore, any impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic were taken into consideration. Qualitative interviews were also conducted with rural physicians to determine the main stressors and mental health struggles that they frequently observe in their farming patients. Results suggested that age was negatively correlated with PHQ-9 scores and positively correlated with religious alignment. Education level was positively correlated with various reported stressors. The physician interviews additionally suggested that farmers commonly present with anxiety, depression, and occasionally alcoholism. The medical professionals also hypothesized that unconventional methods of intervention like after-hours clinics, farmer spouse interviews, and peer support groups may be beneficial for the mental health of this population. Additional similar research with a larger sample size would be particularly useful in better understanding the relationship between age and depression and the relationship between education level and stress in this population.