Home Expert: More needs to be done to address high-risk drinking among aging farmers
Climate, US & World

Expert: More needs to be done to address high-risk drinking among aging farmers

farmer with umbrella
(© MP2 – stock.adobe.com)

Operating a farm is stressful to aging farmers and their families, according to an expert from the University of Nebraska Omaha.

Tina Christine Chasek, Ph.D. discussed the silent suffering and high-risk drinking in a recent AgriSafe webinar. Stigma surrounding mental health and a lack of access to resources make matters worse for farmers.

Farming is “generationally important to the identity of the family,” Chasek said. “But when something goes wrong, it creates a lot of stress and tension, and (it’s) a hit to your mental wellness.”

Agricultural producers face challenges including extreme weather events, animal and crop diseases, financial insecurity, chronic injuries, hard physical labor and long hours.

Farm women experience similar pressures, Chasek said, plus caregiving and holding multiple roles, often working third shifts at home or on the farm. They also may experience a lack of recognition for those contributions.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, up to 65 percent of people 65 or older report high-risk drinking, defined for that age group as exceeding seven standard drinks a week for men and five standard drinks for women.

An older adult processes alcohol differently, Chasek said, because of the body’s water content or ability to metabolize substances.

“Close friends and family are the most likely to notice when an older loved one is turning to alcohol or other substances to cope with stress,” said Matt Nuckols, coordinator of the Virginia Farm Bureau safety program. “It’s important they make sure their loved ones are regularly seeing a primary physician to help monitor abuse issues.”

A hotline has been established to provide mental-health resources to farmers. The helpline is available at (833) 897-2474 or agrisafe.org/agristress-helpline.


If you or someone you know needs support now, call or text 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org
For local mental health resources, visit AFP’s Project Mental Health page.

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.