The Relationship Between Social Support and Depressive Symptoms in Midwestern Farmers

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The impact of stress on the mental health of farmers is a growing concern. With the increased prevalence of depression in farmers, it is important to understand the role of social support as a protective factor in the development of depressive symptoms in farmers. One hundred seventy-two farmers completed the Major Depression Inventory (MDI) and the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support (MSPSS). Mean MDI and MSPSS scores were compared between men and women. Multivariate linear regression adjusting for military service, age, and gender were used with MSPSS as the outcome variable to determine the effect of social support on MSPSS scores. Moderating effects of gender and military service on the social support subscales were tested using Gender × Subscale and Military Service × Subscale interactions. On the MDI, 8.7% of the farmers reported mild, moderate, or severe depressive symptoms, and 13.3% reported feeling that life was not worth living at least some of the time. Higher scores on the MSPSS subscales and the total score were all associated with lower MDI scores. In the final model, the Friend subscale remained significant (β = 0.22, p = .02), and the Family subscale showed a trend toward significance (β = 1.7, p = .08). These results indicate the importance of social support from friends and family members in the prevention of depressive symptoms in farmers. Telemental health may be an alternative to face-to-face counseling to provide outreach mental health services to rural farmers.

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Journal of Rural Mental Health





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