Risk factors for suicide among rural men: are farmers more socially isolated?
Purpose - International evidence demonstrates elevated suicide rates among farming occupations, relative to other occupations. A psychosocial factor commonly argued to contribute to farmer suicide is social isolation and lack of social support, which in turn may indicate a need for policies and programs to support farmers' social participation and connectedness with others. However, there has been very little empirical investigation of perceived levels of social connectedness and social participation among farmers. The paper aims to discuss these issues. Design/methodology/approach - This study used a cross-section of a nationally representative dataset, the Household, Income, and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey. This enabled quantification of Australian farmers' self-reported levels of social connectedness and social participation, relative to rural adult males in other occupations. Findings - Levels of perceived social support and social participation among farmers were approximately equivalent to social support and social participation among rural men in other occupations. Research limitations/implications - Possible mediating variables, such as influences of social support on mental health, were not examined in this study. However, these findings nonetheless suggest the assumption that social isolation is higher among farmers requires careful consideration. Originality/value - This is the first study that quantifies social support and social participation among farmers, using a comparative approach.
International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy