Selected agricultural students’ self-perceived emotional and financial wellbeing
Roberts, Megan Luanne
Social isolation, stressful work environments, and lack of access to healthcare may affect rates of mental health issues, including suicide, in farmers (Tiesman, Konda, Hartley, Chaumont Menéndez, Ridenour, & Hendricks, 2015). In addition to emotional stressors, the distressed production agricultural economy during 2014-2018 added financial stress for many US agricultural producers (ERS USDA, 2018a). The purpose of this non-experimental, correlational study was to measure factors influencing current emotional wellbeing in select adult production agriculture students in Minnesota. Integrated theory of health behavior change, Fishbien and Ajzen’s (1975) theory of reasoned action, and the Total Farmer HealthSM model informed the study’s design. A quantitative survey research design was used with a target population of adult agricultural students (N = 2,420). Two-hundred sixty students responded. The survey included portions of the RAND Medical Outcome Survey SF-36, as well as questions about agricultural stressors, financial status, and desired educational resources. Data were analyzed with descriptive and inferential statistics. Respondents did not have significantly different emotional wellbeing, as measured by the SF-36 emotional health scales, than the general population. However, several factors significantly predicted lower emotional wellbeing in the respondents, including subjective feelings about their financial status and, if applicable to the respondent, their objective farm financial ratios. Students’ top four reported observed stressors were financial worries, anxiety, burnout, and farm transfer. To address emotional wellbeing and financial hardship, students selected one-on-one assistance as their most desired educational delivery method. This study had numerous limitations, including high non-response rate and survey instrument concerns. Future research, in particular research with a general farmer population, could overcome these limitations and provide additional insight into farmer emotional wellbeing.