Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling Psychology & Community Services


Little is known about the psychological impact of the current farm crisis. This study examined the incidence of depression and the help-seeking behavior among North Dakota farmers. A secondary purpose was to determine the relationship of economic stress, as well as demographic variables, with levels of depression and help-seeking behavior.

A sample of 500 North Dakota farm operators was randomly selected from Prairie Grains Magazine mailing list and asked to participate in a mail survey. 199 farm operators and 120 spouses/partners responded to the survey. Each participant was asked to anonymously complete and return the Personal Data Questionnaire, Financial Stress Survey, Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale, and the Help-Seeking Questionnaire. Only the farm operator data was analyzed for purposes of this study. The spouse/partner data was not analyzed, other than to obtain basic demographic information and spousal ratings.

Farm operators in this study reported a high rate of depressive symptoms, with 42.3% having CES-D scores at or above the clinical cutoff score of 16. The average level of depression (M = 14.47) was significantly greater than the average level found in the general population (M = 9). Demographic variables, such as age, martial status, education, and number of years farming, were not correlated with the level of depression. Financial stress, however, was correlated with the level of depression, even when controlling for extraneous sources of stress. Financial stress was a significant predictor of the level of depression. Younger participants and those farming a fewer number of years reported higher levels of financial stress.

Participants reported a moderate level of willingness to seek help overall. They were more willing to seek help from People in General and Professional Resources in General, compared to mental health professional or clergy. They were least willing to help themselves by expressing negative emotions to others. Young farm operators, who reported less financial stress and had more education, were more willing to seek help from resources overall. Farm operators who exhibited more mood/behavioral changes (spousal/partner ratings) also reported higher levels of depression and financial stress but were less willing to seek help.