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Understanding the impacts of water scarcity and socio-economic demographics on farmer mental health in the Murray-Darling Basin

Sahar Daghagh Yazd, Sarah Ann Wheeler and Alec Zuo

Ecological Economics, 2020, vol. 169, issue C

Abstract: Changes in climate pose a significant threat to human health, which is not only expected to influence physical health, but also affect mental health. For farming communities that are dependent on ecological and environmental resources for their living, climate variability may significantly influence future farm viability. This study examined whether climatic conditions and water scarcity were associated with worsening farmer (dryland and irrigators) mental health in the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB), Australia. The sample consisted of 2141 observations (for 235 farmers) from a national longitudinal survey across fourteen waves (2001/02 to 2014/15) and was modelled using Correlative Random Effects panel data regression. This time-period included the Millennium Drought, allowing a natural experiment test of the impact of water scarcity on farmer mental health. Key findings were that farmers located in areas that had experienced reduced rainfall, water allocations <30% and mean daily maximum summer temperatures over 32 °C had significantly worse mental health than farmers in other areas. In addition, farmers who had lower income during drought were much more likely to have worse mental health than in non-drought times.

Keywords: Millennium Drought; Farmer mental health; Irrigation; HILDA (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2019.106564

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