Agriculture, forestry and fishing

Suicide rates higher among U.S. farmers, farmworkers: study

farmer tractor
Photo: Avalon_Studio/iStockphoto

Iowa City, IA – Health officials should adapt suicide prevention programs for the agricultural industry, researchers from the University of Iowa say, citing their recent study that shows the suicide rate among U.S. farm operators and workers is higher than the overall U.S. workforce.

After reviewing information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, the researchers determined that 230 U.S. farmers and agricultural workers committed suicide from 1992 to 2010, resulting in an annual rate of between 0.36 and 0.95 suicides per 100,000 people. The suicide rate for the overall U.S. workforce did not surpass 0.19 in any of the 18 years of the study period, according to a June 13 press release from the school’s College of Public Health.

Study co-author Corinne Peek-Asa, professor of occupational and environmental health at the university, said financial anxiety, isolation, physical pain and inferior health care place farmers and agricultural workers at a disproportionately high risk for suicide. She also pointed to research that suggests that exposure to chemical insecticides causes depression in some people.

Peek-Asa said boosting rural economies, enhancing medical services – especially for mental health – and finding ways for farmers and agricultural workers to broaden their social networks could help lower the suicide rate.

The study was published in the April edition of the Journal of Rural Health.

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