The Noah Project

Rebuilding a sustainable world.

Herbicides linked to farmer depression



Killing weeds with toxic chemicals might be making farmers clinically sad.

A study of more than 700 French farmers and farmworkers found that those who used herbicides were more likely to be treated for depression than were those who avoided the stuff.

From Reuters:

[W]hen the researchers took into account factors linked with depression, such as age and cigarette smoking, they determined that those farmers exposed to weedkillers were nearly two and a half times as likely to have had depression.

Furthermore, farmers who had greater exposure — either more hours or longer years using herbicides — also had a greater chance of having depression than farmers who had used weedkillers less.

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Author: Daniela

I was born in Croatia, at that time Yugoslavia. My family moved to the US when I was very young, but I still treasure the memories of my grandfather teaching me how to protect myself against the "evil eye," my grandmother shopping early every morning, at the open air market, to buy the freshest vegetables for the day's meals, and the traditions that were the underpinnings of our society. Someone once noted that "For all of us that want to move forward, there are a very few that want to keep the old methods of production, traditions and crafts alive." I am a fellow traveler with those who value the old traditions and folk wisdom. I believe the knowledge they possess can contribute significantly to our efforts to build a more sustainable world; one that values the individual over the corporation, conservation over growth and happiness over wealth.

3 thoughts on “Herbicides linked to farmer depression

  1. Thanks for this, Daniela. It’s hard to hold onto all the important ‘quietly raised questions’ that I think we humans need to explore – but this is certainly worthy! It raises additional questions for me.

    My ‘take’ on humanity is that each individual has deep impulse to ‘celebrate,’ or at least to honor, “life”. Even without attaching specific spiritual or religious meaning – it’s my take that this impulse is in us. So I wonder how much of the depression might be linked to a very deep, underlying but unrecognized, sadness at ‘going against one’s own preference’, (i.e. going against this impulse).

    This sadness would be amplified by another conviction I have – that each is born with impulse to approach life autonomously. An underlying, unrecognized ‘inner dialogue’ for any individual particularly ‘committed’ to ‘celebration or honor in support of life itself’ might be “I have to do this – it risks me, risks those around me, and it poisons life itself. But market forces coerce me to do it, and I don’t feel I have choice.”

    That would be a truly depressing ‘inner dialogue’!

    (It’s my observation that not everyone is ‘attuned to’ the impulses that I believe we each nevertheless carry. Reason is partly differences in ‘unique personality configuration’ that we are born with, and partly because of need to ‘shut down’, suppress, or minimize impulses that interfere with our comfort with social mores. It would be my assertion that those farmers more likely to express depression have been ‘less successful’ shutting down highly generalize empathy toward life itself. Don’t mean to highjack or sidetrack key info of article, and agree brain chemistry is influenced by exposure to interactive chemicals from environment, but just want to toss in where I tend to go on this.)

    Thanks again!

    • Thank you for taking the time to post this insightful comment. I hadn’t thought about the possibility that an underlying depression could be the result of farmers going against their own life-affirming impulses. It makes perfect sense.

  2. “Nos enfants nous accuseront” is a French film about the pesticide
    use in France, the high child cancer rates and what one mayor did to
    change things. Amazing.

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