Financial losses in times of an economic slowdown or harsh weather conditions damaging crops may not be the only reason pushing farmers to commit suicide and there may be several reasons that may lead him to such a decision, a new survey has found.
The study, published in the Journal of Rural Health, says that farmers may face various issues in the course of their day-to-day life -- ranging from physical isolation from a social network leading to loneliness to physical pain from the arduous work of farming and lack of available health care in rural areas, especially mental health care – which may force them to the take the extreme step.
The study further suggests that the exposure to chemical insecticides causes depression in some people.
"Occupational factors such as poor access to quality health care, isolation, and financial stress interact with life factors to continue to place farmers at a disproportionately high risk for suicide," said study co-author Corinne Peek-Asa, Professor at the University of Iowa College of Public Health in the US.
In addition, she said, farm culture dictates that farmers who may have physical or psychological needs should just suck it up and go about their work.
Finally, farmers have access to lethal means because many of them own weapons. The rifle they use to chase off animals can easily be turned on themselves.
Moreover, farmers are different from workers in most other fields in that their work is a significant part of their identity, not just a job. When the farm faces difficulties, many see it as a sign of personal failure, Peek-Asa said.
"They struggle with their ability to carve out the role they see for themselves as farmers. They can't take care of their family; they feel like they have fewer and fewer options and can't dig themselves out," Peek-Asa said.
"Eventually, suicide becomes an option," she added.
The study examined suicides and homicides among farmers and agricultural workers across the US from 1992 to 2010 and found 230 farmers committed suicide during that time, an annual suicide rate that ranged from 0.36 per 100,000 farmers to 0.95 per 100,000.
The rate is well above that of workers in all other occupations, which never exceeded 0.19 per 100,000 during the same time period.
Policy solutions to prevent farmer suicides should include improving rural economies, increasing social networks, and improving access to health care and mental health services in rural areas, according to the researchers.
( With IANS inputs)