Poll shows COVID-19 impacting farmers’ mental health

A strong majority of farmers and farmworkers say the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted their mental health, and more than half say they are personally experiencing more mental health challenges than they were a year ago, according to a new American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) poll.

The survey of rural adults, farmers and farmworkers explores how the pandemic has affected their mental health personally and in their communities, as well as how attitudes and experiences around mental health have changed in rural and farm communities since AFBF conducted its first rural mental health survey in 2019.

“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.

The results of the new poll clearly demonstrate that the COVID-19 pandemic is having broad-ranging impacts among rural adults, farmers and farmworkers.

Key findings show two in three farmers and farmworkers, 66 percent, say the pandemic has impacted their mental health.

Rural adults who responded to the survey were split on COVID-19’s impact. Half of rural adults, 53 percent, say the pandemic has impacted their mental health at least some, while 44 percent say it has not impacted their mental health much or at all.

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

Other survey results showed farmers and farmworkers were 10 percent more likely than rural adults as a whole to have experienced feeling nervous, anxious or on edge during the pandemic (65 percent vs. 55 percent).

The percentage of farmers and farmworkers who say social isolation impacts farmers’ mental health increased 22 percent since April 2019, a significant finding given the long hours many farmers often work alone.

Half of rural adults, 52 percent, aged 18-34 say they have thought more about their mental health during the ongoing coronarvirus pandemic, more than other age groups that responded to the survey.

Three in five rural adults, 61 percent, say the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted mental health in rural communities.

Farmers and farmworkers were more likely than rural adults to say COVID-19 has impacted mental health in rural communities a lot (37 percent vs. 22 percent).

The survey of 2,000 rural adults 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.

“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,” Duvall said. “The pandemic added a mountain of stress to an already difficult year for farmers, and they need to know that sometimes it’s okay not to be okay, that people care, and that there’s help and hope.”

A greater awareness of rural stress and mental health can lead to more solutions, AFBF noted.

If you or someone you know is struggling emotionally or has concerns about their mental health, visit the Farm State of Mind website at farmstateofmind.org where you can find crisis hotlines, treatment locators, tips for helping someone in emotional pain, ways to start a conversation and resources for managing stress, anxiety or depression.

AFBF is also looking for other ways to offer help regarding mental health and stress for farmers, ranchers and rural communities.