Pesticide Use and Depression in Farmers

Organic farming may be as important to the farmers who practice it as to their consumers. Researchers with the National Institute of Health recently completed a landmark, 20-year study of the connection between pesticides and depression in farmers.

According to Dr. Freya Kamel, the study’s lead researcher, scattered reports in the literature about the association between pesticide use and depression led to the desire for further research.

With much more detailed information available, researchers were able to delve into more specific questions about which pesticides farmers had used and whether they had sought treatment for depression.

They found a significant correlation between depression and the use of some, but not all, pesticides. Organochloride insecticides and fumigants were found to increase a farmer’s risk of depression by 90% and 80%, respectively. Some were commonly used, such as Malathion, which had been applied by 67% of the farmers interviewed.

And the results cannot be explained away by the stresses of a life in farming. Farmers interviewed were actually less likely to seek treatment for depression than the national population, making the results for those that used the pesticides in question even more dramatic.