Impact of Workplace Stress on Health in Farmworker Families

Our previous survey on personal and family health in agricultural families, revealed stress-related behavioral health problems. The purpose of this project is to identify agricultural work stressors and provide training for farm owners and farmworkers to reduce workplace stress.

Agriculture is considered one of the most hazardous occupations, and agricultural workers are at increased risk for both fatal and non-fatal injuries. Although recent NIOSH reports indicate that farm-related injuries and fatalities are declining, there has been an increase in stress-related behavioral health problems including suicide, depression, and substance abuse.

Agricultural workers report high levels of stress from job mobility, language barriers, job security, financial concerns, and long workdays. This pilot built upon the work begun in two previous projects funded by the PNASH center, “Neurobehavioral Assessment of Pesticide Exposure in Children” which established a cohort of 300 agricultural and control families living in the same community and a pilot project, “Development of a Work Stress Survey for Farmworkers.” A community-based survey was conducted in a sample of local agricultural families and control families, revealing concerns about the impact of exposures on personal and family health in agricultural families, confirming our expectation that stressors were affecting this population. The purpose of this project was to test the hypothesis that agricultural work demands are a major contributor to stress for the agricultural worker and their family.


Co-Principal Investigator:
Kent Anger, PhD
Professor, School of Public Health Oregon Health Sciences University
Oregon Healthy Workforce Center

Co-Principal Investigator:
Diane Rohlman, PhD
Associate Professor, Occupational and Environmental Health
University of Iowa

NIOSH 2014-2017

With community and industry input, a training and wellness program for farm owners and farmworkers was developed and piloted for agricultural workers. This pilot study was designed to identify indicators of stress and to evaluate the effectiveness of a Total Worker Health® (TWH) intervention that addresses typical causes of stress for agricultural workers. In the vineyard pilot study, the “BeSuper!” TWH intervention led to several positive changes to measures of occupational stress, safety, health and well-being, healthcare, lifestyle, and social support. Biomonitoring results revealed decreases in BMI and body fat. There were improvements in lifestyle measures including fewer sugary drinks and fast food meals. Likewise, there were positive changes in consumption of fruits and vegetables, using techniques to reduce food cravings, frequency of drinking sugary drinks, eating low-calorie meals, drinking 5-7 glasses of water per day, and the use of stress-reducing techniques. There were significant increases in (hard and moderate) physical exercise. In addition, waking during the middle of the night declined significantly. Social support improved. Family diet and exercise encouragement both increased significantly and exercise sabotage by others such as co-workers declined significantly.

The resulting TWH toolkit, “BeSuper! agriculture” is available for agricultural employers for use with supervisors/work teams (English and Spanish). The training program and tracking methods for supervisors and workers were found to be effective and well-liked by the pilot participants. “Be Super!” can help employees become exceptional supervisors, foster healthy teams, and create a culture of safety and wellbeing.

Partners and Advisories
OHSU Oregon Healthy Workforce Center
¡Salud!, Tuality Health Care Live, Inc.
Certification Program

TePoel M, Rohlman D, Shaw M. The impact of work demand and gender on occupational and psychosocial stress in Hispanic Farmworkers. Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health. 2017;23(2):109-123. DOI: 10.13031/jash.11753. Epub 2017 April 26. PubMed PMID:29140633; PMCID: PMC Journal - In Process.

Be Super! Total Worker Health Wellness Training and Program for Agricultural Workers available through Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences  A workplace safety, health, and well-being resource.

Development of a Work Stress Survey for Farmworkers
Neurobehavioral Assessment of Pesticide Exposure in Children