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Type: Thesis
Title: Impacts of climatic variability, water scarcity and socio-economic demographics on farmers’ mental health in Australia
Author: Daghagh Yazd, Sahar
Issue Date: 2019
School/Discipline: Centre for Global Food and Resources
Abstract: Climatic conditions in recent decades have been characterised with more frequent, long-term, and severely adverse events (e.g. drought) occurring in many countries. Many studies have found a link between various climatic evens and their negative impact on societies’ health, wellbeing and work productivity. In particular, there has been an increasing focus in the literature on the link between mental health and climatic variability, especially for rural communities. This is especially so for farming communities in Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin (MDB). MDB farmers have experienced significant increases in temperature and evaporation over the past three decades, and reductions in rainfall and runoff due to climate change. The main question investigated in this thesis was to try to understand the key stress factors affecting farmers’ mental health around the world, particularly focussing upon the consequences of climatic variability for farmers (both dryland and irrigators) in the MDB. To answer this question, a mixed-methods approach was employed involving: a) a systematic review of 167 articles on farmers’ mental health, using a standardised electronic literature search strategy and PRISMA guidelines, to understand the potential key stressors affecting farmers’ mental health around the world; b) Correlative Random Effects panel data regression analysis of MDB farmers’ (2,141 observations), and all Australian farmers (5,426 observations) mental health using 14 waves (2001-02 to 2014-15) of the national longitudinal survey from the ‘Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia’ and utilising spatial analysis from various climate, agricultural and water databases (e.g. rainfall, drought periods, soil moisture, maximum summer temperatures); and c) Ordered Probit regression modelling of the influences on irrigator mental health, using a 2015-16 survey sample of 1,000 irrigators in the southern MDB, merged with a variety of spatial data (e.g. drought, water allocation and temperature). Key findings of this thesis show that water scarcity was associated with MDB farmers (both dryland and irrigators) worsening mental health. In particular, the most important proxies of water scarcity were found to be rainfall, low water allocations, and higher summer temperatures. Results also highlight the importance of financial capital in influencing southern MDB irrigators’ psychological distress, with net farm income, debt, productivity changes, and land capital value being the most important influences, respectively. This thesis also provides some evidence that landholder governance and natural resource management (such as being a certified organic irrigator) statistically positively influenced southern MDB irrigators’ mental health, especially in the horticultural industry (where larger sample sizes were available). These findings will become increasingly policy-relevant, given the increasing pressure placed on farming communities by the impacts of climate change, along with the fact that financial problems are increasing in drought-affected areas across Australia. Key recommendations of this thesis indicate the need for a strong focus on policy that is designed to build greater natural farming and financial capital on-farms, and encourage higher risk-management strategies to withstand a drier future in Australia. In summary, the focus must be to integrate: 1) drought/climate change policy; 2) mental health policy; 3) natural resource management/extension policy; and 4) rural economic and social development policy.
Advisor: Zuo, Alec
Wheeler, Sarah
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, Centre for Global Food and Resources, 2019
Keywords: Farmer
mental health
climate change
Murray-Darling Basisn
Provenance: This electronic version is made publicly available by the University of Adelaide in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. This thesis may incorporate third party material which has been used by the author pursuant to Fair Dealing exceptions. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material you wish to be removed from this electronic version, please complete the take down form located at:
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