The long arm of the farm: how an occupation structures exposure and vulnerability to stressors across role domains

J Health Soc Behav. 1998 Mar;39(1):72-89.


We examine how the occupation of farming structures the stress experiences of individuals through the timing and placement of actions. Further, we show how occupations have effects that spillover into family and friendship relationships. We find that farming affects both exposure and vulnerability to stressors. Specifically, farm men are more exposed to financial and job-related stressors, while less prone to marital conflict, than non-farmers. Given the importance of cohesion in farm family operations, farm men are more vulnerable to such conflict when it occurs. However, farm men are unaffected, if not consoled, by knowledge of undesirable events in the lives of their friends. We explore this finding and conclude that farm men use downward social comparisons to cope with the high levels of uncertainty characteristic of farming in the aftermath of the 1980s farm crisis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / epidemiology
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / etiology*
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / psychology
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Iowa / epidemiology
  • Life Change Events
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Sex Factors
  • Spouses
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires