Farmer and Rancher Perceptions of Climate Change and Their Relationships with Mental Health


The impacts of climate change are having negative consequences on agricultural communities in the United States and other regions of the world. More specifically, these impacts are expected to increase in both scale and complexity and will continue to pose challenges both in terms of agricultural production and capacity. The purpose of this study was to understand ranchers’ and farmers’ perceptions of climate change’s impact on their businesses and their mental well-being in a rural U.S. western state. Surveys were administered online and in-person to farmers and ranchers in fall of 2017. Descriptive statistics and correlational tests were conducted to evaluate if climate risk perception was related to levels of mental distress. Open-ended survey questions explored specifically how climate change is impacting mental well-being. The majority of respondents agree that climate change is having an impact on agricultural business, and nearly three quarters of respondents are experiencing moderate to high levels of anxiety when thinking about climate change and its effects on agricultural business. A moderate correlation was observed between climate risk perception and climate-related anxiety. Qualitative data showed the impact of climate change on profitability was perceived as the main cause of distress. This study demonstrates that climate change is generating anxiety and distress for farmers and ranchers. To maximize public health preparedness efforts, interventions are warranted to provide climate adaptation education and therapeutic outreach specific to agricultural workers experiencing economic struggle in the context of climate change.




Howard, Meredith, Selena Ahmed, Paul Lachapelle, and Mark B. Schure. “Farmer and Rancher Perceptions of Climate Change and Their Relationships with Mental Health.” Journal of Rural Mental Health 44, no. 2 (April 2020): 87–95. doi:10.1037/rmh0000131.
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