Climate change and farmers' mental health: risks and responses

Asia Pac J Public Health. 2011 Mar;23(2 Suppl):119S-32. doi: 10.1177/1010539510392556.


Climate change is exacerbating climate variability, evident in more frequent and severe weather-related disasters, such as droughts, fires, and floods. Most of what is known about the possible effects of climate change on rural mental health relates to prolonged drought. But though drought is known to be a disproportionate and general stressor, evidence is mixed and inconclusive. Over time, like drought other weather-related disasters may erode the social and economic bases on which farming communities depend. Rural vulnerability to mental health problems is greatly increased by socioeconomic disadvantage. Related factors may compound this, such as reduced access to health services as communities decline and a "stoical" culture that inhibits help-seeking. Australia has the world's most variable climate and is a major global agricultural producer. Yet despite Australia's (and, especially, rural communities') dependence on farmers' well-being and success, there is very little-and inconclusive-quantitative evidence about farmers' mental health. The aim of this review is to consider, with a view to informing other countries, how climate change and related factors may affect farmers' mental health in Australia. That information is a prerequisite to identifying, selecting, and evaluating adaptive strategies, to lessen the risks of adverse mental health outcomes. The authors identify the need for a systematic epidemiology of the mental health of farmers facing increasing climate change- related weather adversity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / psychology*
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Climate Change*
  • Droughts
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Rural Health