Migrant farmworker stress: mental health implications

J Rural Health. 2008 Winter;24(1):32-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-0361.2008.00134.x.


Context: The number of Latinos in rural regions of the United States is increasing. Little is known about factors that undermine the mental health of this segment of the rural population.

Purpose: The goal of this study is to determine which stressors inherent in farmwork and the farmworker lifestyle contribute to poor mental health.

Methods: An interview containing the Migrant Farmworker Stress Inventory (MFWSI) and 3 mental health scales (the PAI [anxiety], CES-D [depression], and CAGE/4M [alcohol abuse]) was administered to a sample of 125 male migrant farmworkers. Factor analysis differentiated discrete domains of stressors in the MFWSI. Regression models identified associations of the MFWSI stressor domains with mental health outcomes.

Findings: Thirty-eight percent of participants had significant levels of stress as determined by the MFWSI. The MFWSI reduced to 5 stressor domains: legality and logistics, social isolation, work conditions, family, and substance abuse by others. Some 18.4% of participants had impairing levels of anxiety, 41.6% met caseness for depression, and 37.6% answered yes to 2 or more questions on the CAGE. Social isolation and working conditions were associated with both anxiety and depressive symptoms. However, social isolation was more strongly associated with anxiety, and working conditions were more strongly linked to depression.

Conclusions: Specific categories of stressors (social isolation, working conditions) inherent in farmwork and the farmworker lifestyle are associated with mental health among immigrant farmworkers. Isolating specific categories of stressors helps in designing programs and practice for the prevention and management of mental health disorders in the immigrant, farmworker population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Agriculture*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • North Carolina
  • Transients and Migrants / psychology*