Occupational stress among farm and ranch operators in the midwestern United States

Sabrine Chengane, Cheryl L. Beseler, Ellen G. Duysen, Risto H. Rautiainen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background: This study used surveillance data from 2018 and 2020 to test the stability of work-related strain symptoms (high stress, sleep deprivation, exhaustion) with demographic factors, work characteristics, and musculoskeletal symptoms among farm and ranch operators in seven midwestern states of the United States. Methods: Cross-sectional surveys were conducted among farm and ranch operators in 2018 (n = 4423) and 2020 (n = 3492). Operators were asked whether, in the past 12 months, they experienced extended work periods that resulted in high stress levels, sleep deprivation, exhaustion/fatigue, or other work-related strain symptoms. Covariates included personal and demographic factors, work characteristics, number of injuries, work-related health conditions, and exposures on the operation. Summary statistics were tabulated for explanatory and outcome variables. The classification (decision) tree approach was used to assess what variables would best separate operators with and without reported strain symptoms, based on a set of explanatory variables. Regularized regression was used to generate effect estimates between the work strain variables and explanatory variables. Results: High stress level, sleep deprivation, and exhaustion were reported more frequently in 2018 than 2020. The classification tree reproduced the 2018 model using 2020 data with approximately 80% accuracy. The mean number of reported MSD symptoms increased slightly from 1.23 in 2018 to 1.41 in 2020. Older age, more time spent in farm work, higher gross farm income (GFI), and MSD symptoms in six body regions (ankles/feet, knees, lower back, neck, shoulders, wrists/hands) were associated with all three work strain symptoms. Conclusions: Musculoskeletal pain and discomfort was a strong predictor for stress, sleep deprivation, and exhaustion among farmers and ranchers. This finding indicates that reducing MSD pain and discomfort is beneficial for both physical and mental health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2076
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Agriculture
  • Classification tree
  • Fatigue
  • Musculoskeletal disorders
  • Occupational stress
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Surveillance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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