Suicide mortality rates in farm-related occupations and the agriculture industry in the United States

Am J Ind Med. 2021 Nov;64(11):960-968. doi: 10.1002/ajim.23287. Epub 2021 Sep 5.


Background: Studies suggest that agricultural workers and rural residents may have an elevated suicide risk. However, suicide is relatively rare, and rural and farming populations have significantly declined, limiting their representation in national surveys. Many studies have inadequate samples for meaningful analysis.

Methods: We pooled 29 years of data from the Mortality-Linked National Health Interview Survey, 1986-2014, then measured suicide mortality in groups including agriculture workers, and variation in suicide across rural and urban areas. Exposure variables indicated whether participants worked in a farm-related occupation or industry, or lived in a rural area. We used survey-weighted Poisson regression to estimate suicide mortality rates and rate ratios.

Results: Age-adjusted suicide mortality rate per 100,000 was: 22.3 for farmers and farm managers; 21.6 for farmworkers; 28.7 in farming, forestry, and fishing; 15.3 across all other occupations; 16.1 among rural residents. Among farmworkers, age-adjusted rates were 28.3 in rural areas, 17.1 in urban areas (not significantly different). The age-adjusted suicide mortality rate ratio (RR) comparing workers in the agriculture, forestry, and fishery industries to those in all other industries was 1.34 (95% confidence interval, [CI]: 1.05-1.72) (not statistically significant after further adjustment for demographic characteristics). Age-adjusted results were consistent with a higher suicide risk for workers in forestry and fishing than in all other occupations (RR: 1.88, 95% CI: 0.79-4.46).

Conclusion: Workers in agriculture, forestry, and fishing may have an elevated suicide risk. National surveys should consider oversampling of rural residents, who have increased morbidity and mortality risks.

Keywords: National Health Interview Survey; agriculture industry; farm occupations; rural; suicide.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture*
  • Farms
  • Forestry
  • Humans
  • Hunting
  • Occupations
  • Suicide*
  • United States / epidemiology