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Quantifying Stressors Among Iowa Farmers

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health. 14(4): 431-439. (doi: 10.13031/2013.25280) @2008
Authors:   S. A. Freeman, C. V. Schwab, Q. Jiang
Keywords:   Farmers' attitudes, Farm stress, Farm workers, Safety, Surveys

In order to identify events/activities that are particularly stressful for farmers/ranchers, a farm stress survey based on the proportionate scaling method was mailed to a stratified random sample of 3,000 Iowa farmers by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service. The participants were asked to compare 62 life events and farm activities to a marriage (assigned a baseline rating of 50), decide if it was less stressful or more stressful, and then assign a stress rating between 1 and 100. As expected, the most stressful events were the death of a spouse or child. Other high-stress events were disabling injuries, foreclosure on a mortgage, divorce, machinery breakdown during harvest, and loss of crop to weather. Mean stress ratings varied by age, marital status, and type of farming enterprise. Farmers between the ages of 40-59 and 60-79 had the most items with high stress levels. Females had more high-stress items than males. Divorced farmers had fewer high-stress items than other respondents. Farmer's whose primary focus was raising horses had more high-stress items than other farm types. Significant outcomes of this study go beyond the specific mean stress ratings of the events and activities. The results indicate that farm stressors can be quantified using the proportionate scaling method and that the impact of the stressor is based not just on the event but is also dependent on the characteristics of the farmer (e.g., age, gender, marital status, etc.).

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