The rate of suicides among farmers and farm workers has remained stubbornly high since the end of an economic crisis rocked the agriculture sector in the late 1980s, a new study shows.
Researchers at the University of Iowa examined suicide and homicide rates across the country from 1992 to 2010, and found that farmers and farm workers committed suicide at a rate that ranged from nearly twice as high to five times higher than the rate in all other occupations for the same period.
The study found a total of 230 U.S. farmers died by suicide during that period.
The rate was lower than those reported during the farm crisis, when more than 1,000 farmers took their own lives in a trend blamed on massive farm foreclosures.
The rate from 1992 to 2010 ranged from .36 to .95 per 100,000 farmers, compared to a rate that never topped .19 per 100,000 for other industries.
Study co-author Corinne Peek-Asa, professor of occupational and environmental health at the University of Iowa College of Public Health, said lack of access to health care, isolation, extreme weather and financial stress were key factors in the higher rate.
Peek-Asa also noted that some research suggests that exposure to insecticides causes depression in some people.
The study showed that farmers in the western U.S. were more likely to commit suicide, accounting for 43 percent of total farmer suicides.