New Lincoln University research shows analysing a farmer’s personal characteristics is important when dealing with their
Research report* authors Bruce Greig, Dr Peter Nuthall and Dr Kevin Old say a farmer’s personality, objective set,
belief in their ability to control outcomes, as well as education and age were among factors highly related to anxiety.
Dr Nuthall said the past approach to dealing with anxiety has been through utilising coping mechanisms such as sharing
with significant others.
“A problem has also been farmers’ reluctance to voice difficulties and seek helpers.
“An analysis of personal characteristics provides the information required to direct counselling efforts to modify the
anxiety creating personal variables and, consequently, reduce anxiety and its impact on thinking.”
A random survey of New Zealand farmers was used to obtain their ratings on their anxiety.
He said the nature of primary production tended to create more anxiety amongst farm managers relative to other
occupations. They must cope with uncertain, and often extreme, weather, product prices, input prices, government
regulations and rules, as well as employment issues under the close employer/ee relationships on farms, and also plant
and animal disease vagaries.
“There is also evidence that concern over climate change is increasing anxiety through disrupting farmers’ sense of
place, particularly as the farmers’ work place is, frequently, also their home.”
Counselling and psychotherapy can have very positive impacts and are likely to change basic farmer characteristics
(which also change with age and related factors), he said.
“Effectively, this is a further approach with the farmer using her/his own resources to modify basic characteristics
with family and community support.
“However, this probably requires education and training if the farmer is to understand the problem and possible solution
methods. These might be supplied through extension and written media.
Similarly the use of meditation has been shown to be helpful in some cases.
“It is also clear, no matter which approach is taken, there is a need to remove the perceived stigma attached to seeking
help. This can only come from further general education and extension work pointing out that anxiety is normal and
‘assistable’,” Dr Nuthall said.