Farming & Mental Health
12:20 pm
Mon June 23, 2014

Report: Farmer Suicide Rate Higher Than All Other Workers

A new study shows that agricultural workers have unusually high suicide rates compared to other workers.
Credit Harvest Public Media

U.S. farmers are more than three times more likely to commit suicide than other workers, a new study has found.

University of Iowa researcher Wendy Ringgenberg compiled a study based on Occupational Safety and Health Administration farm death statistics from 1992 to 2010. In a recent interview with Iowa Public Radio, Ringgenberg said suicide rates have likely been underestimated and underreported.

“I think it really brings home the point that there is an issue here," Ringgenberg said. "We need to be looking into this much more in depth and we need to be looking and planning and funding for interventions.”

The exact causes of farmer suicides are complex, but statistics have shown that agriculture is more dangerous and difficult than other occupations for decades. In 2011, OSHA found the fatality rate for agricultural workers is 7 times higher than workers in all other private industries.

In addition to finding that suicide rates were higher in farmers, Ringgenberg also found that homicide rates were higher among Southern farmers. Ringgenberg's research is currently being vetted for publication, and she expects it will be finished within the next six months.

The topic of farmer suicides has received media attention in recent months, most notably as a Newsweek cover story.

Harvest Public Media interviewed the Newsweek author, Max Kutner, who said that farmers often feel a sense of isolation and lack access to mental health services.

Lindsey Moon of Iowa Public Radio contributed to this report.

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