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First of its kind study shines light on LGBTQ+ farmer mental health

a rainbow over corn fields

URBANA, Ill. — LGBTQ+ people involved in farm work are over three times more likely to experience depression and suicidal intent and about two and a half times more likely to experience anxiety than the general population. That’s according to a new study led by farmer mental health experts at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.  

“For several years, I've done work around farm stress and mental health among farmers in general. We’ve found people who work in agriculture have adverse mental health compared to those who work in other areas. Similarly, there are findings that queer folks have worse mental health than their straight and cisgender peers. I was motivated to do this study because there's very little research that looks at the crossover of LGBTQ+ people who work in agriculture,” said Courtney Cuthbertson, assistant professor and Illinois Extension specialist in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, part of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at Illinois.

Studies have estimated at least 23,000 LGBTQ+ people are involved in U.S. farming; the actual number is likely higher, Cuthbertson said. The research team surveyed LGBTQ+ farmers across the U.S., asking standardized questions about sexual and gender identity, stress, anxiety, depression, resilient coping, and suicide risk, as well as agricultural commodity type. They received and analyzed 148 responses from 36 states, with greater representation among people in organic production and in California, Illinois, New York, and Texas. 

Read the full release from the College of ACES.

About Extension

Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities. Illinois Extension is part of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.