Background: Drought represents a globally relevant natural disaster linked to adverse health. Evidence has shown agricultural communities to be particularly susceptible to drought, but there is a limited understanding of how drought may impact occupational stress in farmers. Methods: We used repeated measures data collected in the Musculoskeletal Symptoms among Agricultural Workers Cohort study, including 498 Midwestern U.S. farmers surveyed with a Job Content Questionnaire (JCQ) at six-month intervals in 312 counties from 2012 through 2015. A longitudinal linear mixed effects model was used to estimate the change in job strain ratio, a continuous metric of occupational psychosocial stress, during drought conditions measured with a 12-month standardized precipitation index. We further evaluated associations between drought and psychological job demand and job decision latitude, the job strain components, and applied a stratified analysis to evaluate differences by participant sex, age, and geography. Results: During the growing season, the job strain ratio increased by 0.031 (95% CI: 0.012, 0.05) during drought conditions, an amount equivalent to a one-half standard deviation change (Cohen's D = 0.5), compared to non-drought conditions. The association between drought and the job strain ratio was driven mostly by increases in the psychological job demand (2.09; 95% CI: 0.94, 3.24). No risk differences were observed by sex, age group, or geographic region. Conclusions: Our results suggest a previously unidentified association between drought and increased occupational psychosocial stress among farmers. With North American climate anticipated to become hotter and drier, these findings could provide important health effects data for federal drought early warning systems and mitigation plans.
- Occupational health
- Occupational psychosocial stress
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Engineering
- Environmental Chemistry
- Waste Management and Disposal