Ag Policy Blog

Poll Shows COVID-19 Taking Heavy Toll on Farmers' Mental Health

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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A new American Farm Bureau Federation survey of rural adults paints a stressful picture of how farmers and farm workers have faced mental health pressures during the COVID-19 pandemic. (DTN file photo by Jim Patrico)

A new American Farm Bureau Federation poll shows a majority of farmers and farm workers who responded say the COVID-19 pandemic has affected their mental health, according to the results released on Wednesday.

A majority of the 2,000 rural adults surveyed said their mental health challenges are greater than they were one year ago.

The survey also explores how the pandemic has affected mental health in their communities, as well as how attitudes and experiences with mental health have changed in rural and farm communities since 2019 when the AFBF last conducted the survey.

The results of the new poll found two in three farmers and farmworkers say the pandemic has affected their mental health.

Rural adults were split on COVID-19's effect. Half of rural adults (53%) say the pandemic affected their mental health at least some, while 44% say it has not affected their mental health much or at all.

Younger rural adults were more likely than older rural adults to say the pandemic has affected their mental health a lot.

AFBF said in a news release farmers and farmworkers were 10% more likely than rural adults as a whole to have experienced feeling nervous, anxious or on edge during the pandemic.

The percentage of farmers and farmworkers who say social isolation affects their mental health increased by 22% since April 2019.

The survey found about half of rural adults (52%) aged 18 to 34 say they have thought more about their mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. That total is more than any other age group.

Sixty-one percent of rural adults surveyed say the COVID-19 pandemic has affected mental health in rural communities. Farmers and farmworkers were more likely than rural adults to say COVID-19 has affected mental health in rural communities a lot.

The survey was conducted by Morning Consult in December. It also identified the main obstacles to seeking help or treatment for a mental health condition, the most trusted sources for information about mental health, impressions of the importance of mental health in rural communities and the importance of reducing stigma surrounding mental health.

"My takeaway from this survey is that the need for support is real and we must not allow lack of access or a 'too tough to need help' mentality to stand in the way," AFBF President Zippy Duvall said in a news release.

"We are stepping up our efforts through our Farm State of Mind campaign, encouraging conversations about stress and mental health and providing free training and resources for farm and ranch families and rural communities. The pandemic added a mountain of stress to an already difficult year for farmers and they need to know that sometimes it's OK not to be OK, that people care, and that there's help and hope."

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN

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