How financial pressures impact farmers' health
Financial pressures aren't unique to the farming industry. A 2021 report from the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center found that more than half of Americans say they felt anxious and stressed out when thinking about their financial situation, and the survey was taken before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Farming families do face financial constraints that other families don't. From farming equipment to crop insurance, business debt to seed and feed purchases, farmers have a lot on their financial plate—and that's not even counting the more universal challenges of raising a family, paying off personal debt, making charitable donations and saving for college and retirement.
For many in the farming community, financial challenges intensified in the wake of the pandemic. In the last two years, supply chain issues have forced some farmers to euthanize livestock. Plus, rising consumer and production costs haven't always kept up with the return on a farmer's investment—a growing imbalance made all the more pronounced by additional factors like economic tariffs and extreme weather.
And it's not as if money problems only affect your wallet. Financial strain can have a significant impact on your physical and mental health, too. Read on to learn more.
Health impacts of financial stress on farmers and their loved ones
Being stressed out about money can impact a farmer's health in several ways:
- Physical health effects. Chronic stress is associated with an increased risk of health problems like high blood pressure, heart attacks, stroke, obesity and premature death.
- Mental health effects. People with chronic stress often suffer from depression, anxiety, panic attacks and even thoughts of suicide. In the farming culture, where self-reliance and independence are generally celebrated, farmers may be reluctant to seek support for their mental health, which can cause even more harm to their psychological well-being.
- Unhealthy coping strategies. Things like alcohol and drug use, overeating, gambling and excessive social media are harmful and ineffective in the long run. However, due to issues like lack of awareness or limited resources, farmers may rely on these strategies to deal with financial stress.
- Farming safety. Distraction, fatigue, impaired concentration and other effects of high financial stress may increase the risk of farming-related accidents, including disfigurement and death—not to mention expensive damage to equipment or crops.
- Intimate relationships. Financial hardship is a major cause of marital conflict and can put more pressure on spouses who bring home income from jobs and careers outside of farming
- Access to health care. In the attempt to make ends meet, farmers who feel strapped for cash may forgo important medical care, including prescription medication refills and screening and preventive services.
- Quality of life. Due to worries over money, some farmers may feel unable or unwilling to take time off to be with their loved ones or pursue hobbies and activities they enjoy.
Tips for taking care of your physical and mental health
Are farming finances causing you stress? In addition to practicing healthy stress management skills, these strategies may help.
- Identify and curb unhealthy financial behaviors, such as impulse buying or shopping to alleviate stress.
- Automate your savings. You can set up automatic transfers with your financial institution so that a certain amount of money is automatically transferred into your savings or retirement account on a regular basis.
- Brush up on your financial literacy. Check out your local library, take an online course or chat with a trusted financial advisor to educate yourself about money management.
FFRI: supporting farming families throughout Southern Illinois
Financial pressures can have a debilitating effect on both a farmer's livelihood and well-being. If you need support or are looking for resources, call or text SIU Medicine's Farm Family Resource Initiative (FFRI) at 1-833-FARM-SOS to connect with a counselor today.
Karen Leavitt Stallman
Ag Resource Specialist