Three types of loneliness in farming
Understand the factors that drive feelings of social, emotional and cultural loneliness in farming.
It’s no secret that farming can be a stressful line of work; however, research has identified just how lonely farming can be as well. Loneliness can have harmful effects on one's health, just as stress can.
Researchers interviewed farmers and farm support staff in the United Kingdom to get a better understanding of the socially stressful and isolating aspects of their work. They identified three different types of loneliness — social, emotional and cultural — that farmers were experiencing, as well as specific aspects of their work that contributed to feelings of loneliness.
Social loneliness is what we typically think of when discussing loneliness. Social loneliness has been defined as feeling like you don’t have enough meaningful relationships. This type of loneliness can result in boredom or feeling like you don’t have anyone to spend time with.
Contributing factors identified in the research include:
- Long working hours.
- Working alone.
- Less business being conducted in person.
- Geographic isolation.
Emotional loneliness can happen when you feel like you do not have close relationships or someone to talk to when times are tough. Even if it seems like someone has many connections, they may still experience emotional loneliness if those relationships are not strong.
Key factors contributing to emotional loneliness in farming include:
- Family tensions and expectations.
- Blurred boundaries between home and work life
- Business-related stress and responsibilities.
- Relationship difficulties.
Cultural loneliness can be thought of as feeling like important aspects of your identity (such as being a farmer) are poorly understood — and possibly underappreciated — by the general public. Feelings of cultural loneliness arise when you feel like your way of life is threatened or potentially under attack.
Specific factors in farming identified in the research that may contribute to cultural loneliness include:
- A shrinking farming community.
- A sense of disconnection.
- A lack of public understanding about farming.
- Policy pressures, regulations and demands.
Available support and resources
MSU Extension knows how difficult farming can be. That’s why we work with farmers and agricultural workers to provide them with knowledge, tools and resources to help manage stress and promote health and well-being. We have experts and partnerships that can provide agricultural workers with teletherapy, educational presentations, farm financial analysis, business management strategies, Mental Health First Aid trainings and more. You can learn more about these resources at extension.msu.edu/legacygrants.
You can also sign up and take our free, online self-paced Rural Resilience course that teaches you how to recognize signs and symptoms of stress and suicide, ways to effectively communicate with people under stress, and how to reduce stigma related to mental health concerns. Visit the MSU Extension Managing Farm Stress website for more information as well.