COVID-19 has significantly exacerbated farmers’ stress, through market uncertainties, input costs, supply chain disruptions, and labor issues. While negative impacts of COVID-19 on farmer wellbeing have been documented, little has been done to specifically identify farmers most concerned about the emotional toll COVID-19 is taking on them. As the pandemic and other international events continue, knowing key socio-demographic and business characteristics of these farmers may help guide targeted outreach/support efforts, strategically using scarce helping resources in rural areas. This study seeks to identify factors associated with farmers’ high levels of concern about the emotional impact of COVID-19.
Methods: Data were collected using a cross-sectional survey design, with a convenience sample (N=743) recruited through one state’s agricultural newsletters and websites. Surveys gathered information on: demographics; impact of COVID-19 on specific crops and aspects of farm business; farmers’ needs as a result of COVID-19; and farmers’ levels of concern regarding health, financial, and emotional impacts of COVID-19. The outcome examined in this study was a dichotomous measure of farmers’ concern about the emotional impact of COVID-19. A logistic regression model examined associations with farmers’ concern about the emotional impact of COVID-19. This study was reviewed and approved by the lead author’s university IRB.
Results: Most participants were male (66.5%), white non-Hispanic (90.2%), married (82.9%), with a bachelor’s degree or more (60%), and annual household income between $50,000-$200,000 (61.8%). The logistic model showed that farmers who reported mental health resource/service needs were nearly six times as likely to report being very concerned about the emotional impact of COVID-19 (OR=5.90,p< .001). Married farmers were also more likely to report being very concerned about COVID-19’s emotional impact (OR=1.96,p< .05), as were those who had field crops (e.g. cotton, peanuts) affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (OR=1.86,p< .01). Farmers who anticipated financial losses (OR=2.57,p< .02) and who reported being concerned about financial impacts of COVID-19 (OR=2.05,p< .01) were also more likely to report being very concerned about COVID-19’s emotional impact. Farmers with household incomes between $50,000-99,999 were less likely to report being very concerned about the emotional impact of COVID-19 than those in lower income brackets (OR=0.28, p< .05). Last, farmers concerned about getting COVID-19 were more likely to report being very concerned about COVID’s emotional impact (OR=8.80,p< .001).
Conclusions and Implications: There are numerous factors that are associated with farmers’ concerns about COVID-19’s impact on their emotional wellbeing. Additional, localized, community-focused research may be needed to best understand these relationships. Our findings may inform social work practice and outreach efforts in three ways: 1) Improving the delivery of specific information on mental health resources/ services. 2) Prioritizing outreach to farmers who are married, farm row crops, or are lower income-bracket; 3) Providing assistance that addresses financial losses due to COVID-19.