Helping farmers cope with stress during drought

Psychology Honours student Kate Gunn at a property near Blanchetown, South Australia.
Photo by Briony Lord.

Psychology Honours student Kate Gunn at a property near Blanchetown, South Australia.
Photo by Briony Lord.

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Thursday, 24 April 2008

How do South Australia's farmers cope with stress, and how can their experiences help others cope?

That's the focus of a new study being conducted at the University of Adelaide, which aims to better understand the stress farmers and their families go through during times of drought.

Kate Gunn, an Honours student in Psychology at the University of Adelaide, is hoping that South Australia's farmers and their spouses will take part in the study.

"As South Australian farmers are acutely aware, the everyday experiences and stressors associated with life on the land are very different from those experienced by their urban counterparts," Kate said.

"However, it is not only the sources of stress that often differ, but also rural people's ways of coping.

"While much research has been done on levels of depression and suicide in rural communities, less is known about how everyday rural people, in particular farmers, cope with the problems that present themselves in everyday life."

Kate grew up on a farm near Streaky Bay, and is keen to promote a greater understanding of rural communities.

Her study aims to identify unique stressors faced by South Australian farmers, and to inform the South Australian farming community of constructive ways of coping with difficult times, based on the experiences of their peers.

"While there is often no 'right' or 'wrong' way of dealing with stress, it is hoped that this research will identify broad strategies that farmers find helpful and, importantly, are willing to use in the rural setting," Kate said.

"The investigation of farmers' stress is not only a short-term issue in the face of drought, but also a long-term investment in the health and well-being of rural communities of the future," she said.

The relationships between stress, coping, age, gender, remoteness, marital status, perceived control over stress, optimism, personality and levels of social support will also be explored.

Participation in the study involves the completion of a simple questionnaire, which should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.

"In the coming weeks, members of the South Australian Farmers' Federation (SAFF) will receive a paper copy of the survey in the mail, a faxed copy of the survey or an email from SAFF with the link to our website where the questionnaire can be completed online," Kate said.

Anyone interested in participating in the study - even if they are not a member of SAFF - can find more information and complete the survey online at:


Contact Details

Kate Gunn
PhD student
School of Psychology
The University of Adelaide
Mobile: 0417 852 537

Mr David Ellis
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762