Yanni Liang Poster

Using Mixed Methods to Examine Symptoms of Depression among Cooperative Dairy Farmers

Yanni Liang, MS, University of Iowa; Brandi Janssen, PhD, University of Iowa; Diane Rohlman, PhD, University of Iowa


Yanni Liang is a graduate fellow at the Occupational and Environmental Health department in the University of Iowa. Her research focuses on farmers’ organizational participation and mental health.

Learning objective:
Participants will be able to name a cooperative program that is associated with farmers’ symptoms of depression.


Background: Farmers experience high risks of stress, depression, and suicide. Risk factors are well documented but protective factors are seldom examined. Agricultural cooperatives are founded by farmers to retain markets, access services, and participate in decision-making. It is unknown whether participation in cooperative programs can mitigate symptoms of depression. Furthermore, the impact of social support on stress is inconclusive and its effect on farmers is less known.

Methods: Semi-structured interviews with farmers, cooperative leaders, and agriculture educators were used to design a survey to examine whether using cooperative services and engagement activities and having social support impact symptoms of depression among dairy farmers (N=45).

Results: Farm bankruptcies, stress, depression, and suicide are prevailing concerns. Participants using certain cooperative services and engagement activities reported lower symptoms of depression scores. Symptoms of depression were negatively associated with services related to educational opportunities, mentorship programs, and staff advice and social support involving emotional, informational, tangible, and empathetic listening. Engaging in specific activities (i.e., policy discussions) was associated with increased symptoms of depression.

Conclusion: Cooperative resources and social support can potentially reduce symptoms of depression among farmers.

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