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Drought can lead to more than the summertime blues in farmers

Press Release

For Immediate Release: September 17, 2021

Contact: Jenn Patterson, MLitt, GPCAH Center Coordinator, 319-335-4207

It comes as no surprise to Midwesterners that farmers are vulnerable to extreme weather events, but have you considered additional ways to combat occupational stress when it comes to drought planning for yourself and your ag community?

Jesse Berman, Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota, and his team published a peer-reviewed paper in Science of The Total Environment looking at the association between drought conditions and increasing occupational stress among nearly 500 Midwest farmers over 2012-2015. Read the full paper at

Researchers examined the relationship between drought conditions and measures of job-related stress (job strain ratio). The study identified that the job strain ratio increased during drought conditions that occurred during the growing season. Increased stress related to drought was nearly four-fold greater than stress associated with other factors, such as reporting pain in multiple body parts.

While we know that lack of rain causes stress, this study quantifies the trend and lends evidence to the need for mental health interventions. The authors suggest including information on health risks and mitigation strategies during early phases of drought conditions, with increased mental health resources for vulnerable populations.

This understudied threat to public health is particularly important due to increasingly hotter and drier growing seasons in North America and could provide important data for federal early warning systems and preparedness policy.

“Incorporating health into drought early warning plans is a growing priority of the National Integrated Drought Information System,” Berman said. “Studies that evaluate health risks from extreme weather are incredibly important for protecting both current and future farming populations that suffer disproportionately from natural disaster events.”

Berman received a pilot grant from the Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health at the University of Iowa in 2019 to fund this study. GPCAH is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, U54 OH 007548).

For more information about how farmers get hurt and how to prevent these injuries, visit and select “resources” from the menu options.

Contact information: Jesse Berman, PhD, Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota

GPCAH Pilot Grants

The Center funds pilot projects (up to $30,000 per project) intended to promote innovative outreach and research efforts to prevent agricultural injury and illness. The pilot program supports both community-based organizations and academic researchers, especially new...