Context: Although funding to enhance the delivery of health care among migrant farmworkers has primarily focused on urgent care issues within this population, the etiology of mental health risks and perceived stress is poorly understood.
Purpose: To identify the type and severity of stress perceived by migrant and seasonal farmworkers in rural southeast North Carolina.
Methods: During the pre-agricultural season in 2002, 151 migrant and seasonal farmworkers completed the 39-item Migrant Farmworker Stress Inventory (MFWSI) in either English or Spanish.
Findings: Fifty-one percent (n = 77) of the respondents perceived themselves at a high level of stress (mean score above 80 of "caseness") that may subsequently put them at greater risk for experiencing psychological difficulties. The stressors highly ranked (mean>2.5 in a maximum of 4, with "extremely stressful" in a 5-point Likert scale 0 to 4) were related to their mobile lifestyle, language barriers, insecure job and legal status, financial restraint, and long working hours. Also, drug and alcohol use in the migrant community was found to be one of the significant sources of stressors. Variables influencing high levels of stress include education, social support, religion, marital status, and age. Despite a relatively high level of perceived stress, the majority of respondents (71.5%) viewed their physical health as either "good" or "excellent."
Conclusions: Findings from the study suggest the availability of social support systems may provide significant insight into developing appropriate health services for migrant and seasonal farmworkers and their families.