Farmer Suicides: Effects of Socio-Economic, Climate, and Mental Health Factors

J Ment Health Policy Econ. 2021 Jun 1;24(2):61-71.


Background: People working in agriculture, fishing, and forestry have elevated risks of suicide. The suicide rates for the occupations of "agriculture, fishing, and forestry" are significantly higher than any other occupation.

Aims of study: This study evaluates whether the variability in socioeconomic and demographic factors and in climate as well as the support from mental health providers and social associations affected the suicide rates of farmers in the US.

Methods: We estimate Poisson count data regression and county level-fixed effects regressions using data from the National Center for Health Statistics complemented with relevant socio-economic, climate data and data on mental health providers from a variety of sources.

Results: The results show more suicides in counties with more farms and with higher share of population without health insurance, lower agricultural wages and, in non-rural counties higher poverty rate. Surprisingly, we find more suicides in counties with more social associations, while the availability of mental health providers is associated with fewer suicides in non-rural counties, and lower suicide rate in southern counties.

Discussion: These results highlight the need for innovative targeted policy interventions instead of relying on one-size-fits-all approach. Farmers and farm workers are yet to be reached with modern and effective tools to improve mental health and prevent suicide. At the same time, factors such as the weather and climate as well as some more traditional factors such as social associations or religious participation play a limited role.

Implications for health policies: Support mechanisms have a differential effect in rural and urban areas. It is important to identify the specific demographic, climate, and policy changes that serve as external stressors and affect farm workers' suicide and accidental death from on-farm injury.

Implication for further research: Ideally, individual level data on farmers would be best in a study that evaluates what factors cause suicides.

MeSH terms

  • Farmers*
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Poverty
  • Rural Population
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Suicide*