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Research trends in farmers’ mental health: A scoping review of mental health outcomes and interventions among farming populations worldwide

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posted on 05.12.2019, 18:44 by Briana N. M. Hagen, Ashley Albright, Jan Sargeant, Charlotte B. Winder, Sherilee L. Harper, Terri L. O’Sullivan, Andria Jones-Bitton

Background

Mental health issues among farmers are identified population health concerns. While one systematic review focused on suicide in farming populations in the United States, there have been no scoping studies examining mental health in farming communities worldwide. The objectives of this scoping review were to: provide a descriptive analysis of the literature pertaining to mental health outcomes in farming populations; describe the international scope of the research; and highlight published mental health services and interventions that have been evaluated.

Methods

Following Arksey and O’Malley’s scoping review framework, five major health and science platforms were used to identify studies examining mental health outcomes in farming populations, worldwide. Studies that met a priori inclusion criteria that were published prior to December 31, 2017 were included in this review. Data synthesis and descriptive statistics were conducted using STATA 15® software; proportions were calculated by country.

Results

The initial literature search yielded 9,906 records. After title and abstract screening, 676 articles were reviewed in-full. Of these, 341 met a priori inclusion criteria. Studies included were conducted between 1979 and 2017; the majority (265; 77.7%) were published between 2002–2017. The most frequently measured outcomes were stress (41.9%), suicide (33.1%), and depression (32.6%). Over 70% of studies that examined stress described using quantitative research methods, most predominantly, cross-sectional designs (42.7%). Approximately 64% of studies that measured suicide reported using a quantitative approach; the largest proportion of included suicide studies (33.6%) described using cohort designs. Approximately 84% of studies that measured depression described using quantitative approaches; sixty percent of these studies reported using a cross-sectional study design. Twenty included studies described a mental health service or intervention (5.9%).

Conclusions

This scoping review provides a critical overview of the literature examining mental health outcomes in farming populations worldwide. Given the importance of farming and agriculture, this review can be used to ensure future research complements existing work, avoids unnecessary overlap, and begins to tackle the less-studied mental health outcomes amongst farmers. These results can guide researchers to identified gaps in research and services, leading to a more informed approach to future work, and ultimately, a more comprehensive understanding of mental health among farmers worldwide.

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