Assessing Health and Safety Concerns and Psychological Stressors among Agricultural Workers in the U.S. Midwest

J Agric Saf Health. 2020 Jan 20;26(1):45-58. doi: 10.13031/jash.13660.


There is limited research exploring agricultural workers' own perspectives on the relative importance of the hazards and stressors they experience. There is also a lack of evidence on whether this reporting differs by method of elicitation. Finally, very little research exists on how to improve mail survey response rates among agricultural workers. We examined health and safety concerns and psychological stressors among Midwestern farmers. We assessed whether these reports varied by survey mode (mail survey versus in-person survey). The efficacy of two different types of incentives to enhance mail survey response rates among agricultural workers was also investigated. In 2018, a needs assessment survey was developed and mailed to a random sample of farm owner-operators in Iowa, Ohio, and Missouri, with randomly assigned prepaid or promised monetary incentives. In-person surveys were conducted among farm owner-operators and hired workers at three regional farm shows in Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska. The mail survey response rates were compared by incentive type. Content analysis was used to generate themes associated with health and safety concerns and psychological stressors, which were then ranked by frequency counts. Chi-square tests were used to analyze variation in the distribution of these themes by survey mode. The response rate for the $1 prepaid incentive was double that of the $10 promised incentive. Content analysis identified 13 health and safety concerns and eight psychological stressors. Chemicals, equipment/tools, and health outcomes were the most frequently noted health and safety concerns. Finances, climate/weather, and farm workload and management were the most frequently noted psychological stressors. Although there was considerable overlap in survey responses across mail and in-person respondents, important differences by sample and survey mode characteristics were observed. The results can support a variety of stakeholders in prioritizing and developing interventions and educational resources to address health and safety concerns and psychological stressors among Midwestern farmers. Our findings also contribute to the evidence base on primary data collection methods for agricultural workers.

Keywords: Farmers; Health and safety; Needs assessment; Stressors; Survey incentives.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Agriculture*
  • Farmers / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iowa
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Health*
  • Ohio
  • Stress, Psychological*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires