Anxiety and Associated Stressors Among Farm Women in England and Wales

J Agromedicine. 2023 Oct;28(4):769-783. doi: 10.1080/1059924X.2023.2200421. Epub 2023 Apr 14.


Objectives: The findings presented here derive from a wider study that sought to establish a baseline understanding of mental health and wellbeing among the agricultural community in England and Wales. This paper focuses on selected questions that investigated levels of anxiety and associated stress factors among farm women, a group which has been relatively neglected within previous research on farming mental health in the United Kingdom.

Methods: A questionnaire survey was widely distributed to members of the agricultural community in England and Wales (n = 15,296) in both paper and online formats. The survey included a number of standardised instruments to assess mental health and wellbeing, including the Generalised Anxiety Disorder-7 scale (GAD-7). Focusing on a sub-sample of female respondents (n = 3487), this paper details the findings from the GAD-7, alongside those from a selection of other questions investigating sources of stress, loneliness and perceived business viability.

Results: A significant proportion of female respondents were experiencing anxiety at the time of survey completion, with 23.3% reaching the threshold for clinically relevant anxiety based on their GAD-7 scores (medium or severe anxiety, scores≥10). A further 34.6% were classified as experiencing mild anxiety (scores 5-9) whilst 42.1% were not suffering from anxiety (scores 0-4). Medium/severe anxiety was identified as being associated with a number of stress factors, feelings of loneliness and pessimistic perceptions of farm business viability. There were important age-based differences, with working-aged women identified as more likely to suffer from anxiety, loneliness and certain stressors than older women.

Conclusion: The findings reported here indicate concerning levels of anxiety among farming women and this should be seen as a call to action. There are clear associations between anxiety and a range of stressors and, although we cannot ascertain causality, these point to issues that demand attention in efforts to improve mental health within this social group. The factors contributing to anxiety are, however, multiple and complex and farm women may be affected by particular gender-based challenges that have not yet been explicitly explored in relation to mental health. Further research is needed to investigate and understand these issues in greater depth.

Keywords: Anxiety; GAD-7; agriculture; farm women; mental health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anxiety Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Anxiety* / epidemiology
  • Depression
  • England / epidemiology
  • Farms
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Wales / epidemiology