Rural and Agricultural Natural Disaster Stress and Recovery: A Comparison

Kristin K. Gaffney, Sharon Medcalf, Ellen Duysen, Christopher Wichman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study used a novel survey instrument to evaluate the hypothesis that U.S. agricultural producers have significantly different stress and recovery experiences following acute-onset natural disaster compared to their non-agricultural counterparts. Participants were recruited through local organizations and targeted email and social media in communities in Arkansas and Nebraska that had experienced violent tornadoes in 2014 and/or severe flooding in 2019. The survey instrument incorporated the Brief Resilience Scale, the Revised Impact of Event Scale referencing two time points, the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory-Short Form, and original questions. Demographic, exposure, stress, and recovery measures were analyzed in SAS with Chi-square tests, t-tests, Wilcoxon tests, and multiple linear regression modeling to test for differences between agricultural and non-agricultural groups in resilience, event exposure, stress symptoms in the week after the event, stress symptoms in the month before the survey, a calculated recovery ratio, and posttraumatic growth. Analysis sample (N = 159) contained 20.8% agricultural occupation, 71.1% female, and 49.1% over age 55. No significant differences were found between agricultural and non-agricultural participants when comparing resilience, stress, or recovery ratio measures. Unadjusted posttraumatic growth score was significantly lower in the agriculture group (P =.02), and an occupation group by sex interaction was significantly associated with posttraumatic growth score (P =.02) when controlled for number of initial posttraumatic stress symptoms in the adjusted model, with agricultural women showing lower growth. Overall, there was no evidence of significant difference in disaster stress and recovery between agricultural and rural, non-agricultural groups in this study. There was some evidence that women in agriculture may have lower levels of recovery. Data indicated that rural residents continue to experience posttraumatic-type symptoms up to 8 years beyond the acute-onset natural disaster events. Communities should include strategies to support mental and emotional health in their preparedness, response, and recovery plans with intentional inclusion of agricultural populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)797-808
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Agromedicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2023


  • Agriculture
  • mental health
  • natural disaster
  • rural
  • stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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