Healthy food choices and adequate exercise are just two of a wide range of factors —
personal, social, economic, and environmental — that contribute to the health and well-being of individuals, families, and communities. To ensure health and wellness, people must have access to health information, healthcare, and public safety services.
Many of the factors that affect agricultural production are largely beyond the control of the producer. Good health, including mental health, is a key factor that contributes to one’s ability to keep farming. Twenty percent of any population has mental health complications, including farmers and ranchers. Stigma and privacy concerns associated
with mental health issues may mean that many people do not seek out available behavioral health services.
Symptoms of poor mental health
|Persistent worry and fear|
|Apprehension and uneasiness|
|Avoidance of others|
|Lack of interest or pleasure in activities|
|Significant weight change or changes in appetite|
|Slow or fidgety body movements|
|Frequent thoughts of death or suicide|
|Unexplained changes in physical appearance or behavior|
Factors Impacting Wellness
Stress is our response to anything that threatens our physical, emotional or financial health or survival. A stressor is an event, a series of events that harms or threatens an individual and causes him or her to respond. When we suffer from too much stress, for too long a period of time, it is called distress. Persistent, extended periods of negative
stress can precede other issues impacting mental wellness. It is often difficult for people to distinguish between depression and stress.
For agricultural populations, stressful events might include:
|Financial concerns (ie: equipment purchases, borrowing for farm operations, mortgages or rent, insurance)|
|Personal or family concerns (ie: death of someone close, illness, marital relationships, family demands)|
|Change in farm policies|
|Loss of crop or livestock|
Depression is a disorder that affects the biochemical balance of the brain and causes symptoms such as low energy level, sadness, physical impairments, low self-esteem and problems thinking. Depression may be diagnosed when multiple symptoms are present for more than two weeks.
Warning Signs indicating a person may be at risk to harm self or others include:
|Talk of suicide|
|Changes in sleep and/or eating patterns|
|Stopped taking medication as prescribed or hoarding medication|
|Increased use of drugs or alcohol|
|Preoccupation with death|
|Making last arrangements, giving away possessions|
|Withdrawal from family, friends and routines that were pleasurable|
|Aggressive and disruptive behavior|
|Increased irritability and criticism|
|History of suicide of family member or friend|
Anxiety disorders are the most common of all behavioral health conditions. Anxiety includes fears, apprehensive mood, feelings of dread and worried thoughts and behaviors. Some types of anxiety disorders include panic disorder, post -traumatic stress disorder, obsessive – compulsive disorder, and phobias. Untreated anxiety can lead to depression, substance abuse and poor self-esteem.
Suicide comments should never be discounted. Always respond immediately.
Managing Stress and Pursuing Wellness in Agriculture
Farming/ranching has long been one of the most stressful and dangerous occupations, but it also has its share of rewards and satisfaction. Farm stress can come from many directions, from unpredictable weather and falling net
farm income, to the loss of a valuable animal and the increasing cost of health care. Some of the pressures that occur in the agricultural industry are unique and beyond a person’s control, which can be difficult and lead to feelings of frustration, helplessness and depression.
Rural stress impacts the farming operation, individuals, families and communities. The information below can be helpful in identifying stressors, managing rural stress, identifying coping strategies and building a strong farm resource network.
How agriculture can improve health and nutrition
The agricultural sector presents key opportunities for improving nutrition and health. But this connection is often not given due attention, despite parallel initiatives across the three sectors.
The potential impacts of agricultural activities on health and nutrition extend across a number of channels. One area of impact is household ability to produce, purchase and consume more, better and cheaper food. Over the past 40 years, agricultural advances, such as the Green Revolution, led to the doubling of cereal production and yields,
improving the well-being of many people and providing a springboard for remarkable economic growth. More recently, biofortification efforts to breed and disseminate crops that are rich in micronutrients, such as vitamin A, zinc and iron, have improved vitamin and mineral intake among consumers in Africa and Asia.
Another important contribution of agriculture towards nutrition and health is increased rural income, allowing people to improve their diets. The poor are overwhelmingly located in rural areas and derive a significant share of their income from agricultural activities. Given the importance of agriculture for the livelihoods of the rural poor,
agricultural growth has the potential to greatly reduce poverty – a key contributor to poor health and undernutrition. Agricultural activities can also generate economy-wide effects such as increasing government revenues to fund health, infrastructure and nutrition intervention programmes.
Agricultural intensification has been essential to feed the world’s growing population, but it has also brought its own risks for people’s health, including zoonotic diseases, water and food-borne diseases, occupational hazards, and natural resource degradation and overuse. Similarly, water, energy (electricity) and fertilizer subsidies have been linked to distorted consumption and production choices and the crowding out of public investment.