Studies Show Farmers’ Suicide Rates Are Higher Than For Any Other Occupation In The U.S.

When the agricultural economy experiences recession, some farmers feel they’ve let down their families, and lost the work that is most meaningful to them.

By Jill AmentDecember 18, 2017 3:40 pm

During the holiday season, we often hear stories about an increase in suicides. But researchers at the Mayo Clinic, among many others say this is wrong. Indeed, suicide rates seem to fall during the months of December and January. But even if conventional wisdom isn’t true for most of us, what patterns might we be missing?  An item in the Guardian offers one tragic example: a new report says farmers are killing themselves at a higher rate than people in any other occupation in the U.S.

Dr. Michael Rosmann, an Iowa-based psychologist and farmer, who specializes in agricultural behavioral health says the suicide rate among U.S. farmers is ticking upwards because of the current farm recession.

“We know that the major cause of farm stress is uncertainty about whether farmers will be able to continue in their chosen profession, producing food and fibers and, increasingly, renewable fuel,” Rosmann says. “When farmers aren’t able to succeed and hang on to their land and other resources needed to farm, they feel like failures.”

The farm suicide rate is four times that of all Americans, Rosmann says, and the rate is 2.5 times that of returning veterans.

Rosmann says there are programs attempting to help farmers experiencing stress. Agricultural extension services and rural agricultural safety and health centers have conducted research aimed at helping them.

In the 1980s, telephone hotlines helped farmers, Rosmann says. Unfortunately, many of those lines have been discontinued by the states that ran them.


Written by Shelly Brisbin.