Farmers and mental health: A quantitative study of factors associated with mental health of farmers i Norway
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Farmer’s mental health is a topic that merits attention. A number of studies conducted in Norway and in other western countries have found that farmers as an occupational group suffer from mental challenges more frequently than other occupational groups. The main objective of this doctoral thesis is to investigate how various factors in farmers’ lives predict their mental health and how the mental health of farmers in Norway changed between 1982 and 2012. The aspects investigated are farm income, farmers’ workloads, psychological work demands, sense of independence, number of close friends, and changing social perceptions of farming. In this doctoral thesis, important findings were that high farm workloads and low farm incomes are predictive of poor mental health. Similarly, high levels of psychological work demands, a low sense of independence, and a low number of close friends all lead to poorer mental health, while a strong sense of independence buffers some of the adverse effects of psychological work demands on mental health. Feeling highly valued as a farmer in wider society is associated with better mental health among farmers. In addition, the results indicate that farmers’ mental health was worse in 2012 than in 1982. Possible reasons for this include higher workloads, increasing work pressures, greater concern about the financial situation of the farm, and worse weather conditions in 2012 in comparison to 1982 leading to greater fear of crop failure. Norway’s agricultural sector has undergone a number of significant changes over the last three decades. Structure rationalization has led to a lower number of farmers, larger farms, smaller margins between farm income and costs, and an increased market orientation of the sector. It is often assumed that these changes have led to increased workloads, psychological work demands, financial challenges, and time pressure among the farming population The quantitative empirical data was obtained from a survey of a representative sample of Norwegian farmers conducted in 2012 and in 1982. Structural equation modelling (SEM) was used in the three articles. This doctoral thesis contributes new knowledge concerning the mental health of Norwegian farmers. This knowledge may help officials and farmers’ representatives to recognize and address conditions that could lead to poor mental health in farming communities.