Risk for Depressive Symptoms and Suicide Among U.S. Primary Farmers and Family Members: A Systematic Literature Review

Deborah B. Reed, Deborah T. Claunch

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Background: About 84% of the agriculture, fishing, and forestry occupational sector is comprised of farmers. This sector is at high risk for suicide in the United States. Recent disasters and trade upheavals may make farmers and their families more vulnerable to depression and suicide. This review focused on the risk for depression and suicide among United States’ primary farm operators and their families. Methods: A systematic search of the literature published between January 2000 and June 2019, using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) methodology was conducted. Results: A total of 30 articles met full inclusion criteria. Seventeen reports emanated from the midwest. Twenty studies used a cross-sectional design, primarily assessing a convenience sample or random stratified sample from a limited geographic area. We discovered only one intervention evaluation study. Depressive symptoms were assessed as part of the studies, but it was not the major focus. A variety of instruments measured depressive symptoms, with the Centers for Disease Control Epidemiologic Studies—Depression (CES-D) Scale used more frequently than other scales. Thirteen studies focused on the relationship between pesticide/chemical exposure and depression or suicide risk. Increased stress, poor physical health, compromised financial position, and previous injury were among the leading indicators of depression. Conclusion/Application to Practice: The limited number of studies that was discovered identified the need for more robust science where the risk for depression and suicide is the primary focus of the study and for intervention studies grounded in science. Occupational health providers should be vigilant about farm exposure and be aware of factors that may influence depressive symptoms of workers who operate farm establishments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)236-248
Number of pages13
JournalWorkplace Health and Safety
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s).


  • agriculture
  • depression
  • farmers
  • mental health
  • suicide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Nursing (miscellaneous)


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