Health Issues and Mental Distress in French Active Farmers: A Quantitative and Qualitative Study


Purpose: Despite a particularly high suicide-related death rate observed in French farmers, data regarding this population’s perception of health and their potential difficulties in accessing health care remains scarce.

Methods: We conducted a quantitative study involving 161 randomly selected farmers in three rural localities. Precarious conditions were assessed based on farmers’ EPICES scores, their quality of life using the SF12 score, and their psychological distress by means of the GHQ-12. At the same time, a qualitative study was performed consisting in 16 in-depth interviews.

Findings: In total, 112 farmers (70% of persons contacted), most of them working as breeders for the meat-processing industry, participated in the study. Amongst them, 14.3% had forgone doctor consultation within the last 12 months, and 19.6% had abstained from consulting a dentist. They expressed trust in their general practitioners but frequently resorted to alternative medicine or marginal practitioners when they considered their disease to be benign. The general physical health status measured using the SF12 was good in 84.5% of cases. However, 29.7% of respondents experienced psychological distress that seemed to originate primarily from the conflicting rhythms of agricultural timescales (seasonal calendar; local weather conditions; social rhythms, including administrative work; community rhythms). Factor analysis of mixed data showed that single farmers exhibiting social deprivation, who had inherited their farm, tended to be affected by psychological distress.

Conclusion: The consideration of mental distress in this identified population proves to be challenging issues that may help prevent suicide in farmers.

Key words: work stress, suicide, anthropology, access to health care.

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Agriculture Journal- Health Issues and Mental Distress in French Active Farmers: A Quantitative and Qualitative Study

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