Agriculture Severe climate change takes its toll on the mental health of farmers

Severe climate change takes its toll on the mental health of farmers

According to a recent study at Murdoch University, Wheatbelt farmers are struggling to see a future in farming because of the affects of climate change on their lands and communities.

Neville Ellis from the Centre for Responsible Citizen and Sustainability interviewed 22 farmers from the Wheatbelt town of Newdegate, 400kms south east of Perth, over the course of the 2013-14 agricultural season. The interviews revealed that the negative impacts of climate change, as manifested in issues like wind erosion and unpredictable weather, was undermining their wellbeing.

“Winter rainfall has fallen 20 per cent since the 1970s, average temperatures have risen almost a degree since the 1950s and climate extremes like heatwaves, frosts and droughts are more frequent and severe,” said Mr. Ellis.

Farmers’ land is an extension of their identity which means that any changes caused by variable weather had a negative effect on their emotional state, causing anxious behavior, such as checking the weather forecast up to 30 times a day.

The findings from this study will be used to inform new initiatives around ensuring these farmers receive sufficient support from counseling and health services in the region that are sensitive to this deep sense of connection to their lands.

Read more: Murdoch University.