• geriatrics;
  • health-related quality of life;
  • mental health;
  • rural;
  • social determinants of health



Older farmers experience a high rate of suicide, and depression is closely aligned with suicide among agricultural workers. Depressive symptoms may be influenced by work patterns, work satisfaction, stress, and health status. In addition, members of a couple may affect each other's depressive symptoms. The purpose was to determine whether depressive symptoms score is predicted by hours worked on the farm, satisfaction with work, number of health conditions, perceived stress, and demographics in a sample of older farm couples, and to assess the degree of influence on depressive symptoms spouses have on each other.


A total of 494 couples participated in the initial interview for a longitudinal study of farmers aged 50 and above. Data from husbands and wives were used together in a multilevel, dyad-based regression model to determine predictors of depressive symptoms.


Men's depressive symptoms scores were predicted by their own number of health conditions and stress and by their wives’ stress and health conditions. Women's depressive symptoms scores were predicted by their own work satisfaction, stress, and number of health conditions and their husbands’ time spent working on the farm and stress.


Stress management may be particularly important in older farm couples, since perceived duress of 1 member of the dyad impacts both. Work factors and health conditions also affect depressive symptoms in older rural couples, but these may be less easily modified.