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Farmers Already Felt Isolated. the COVID-19 Pandemic Made It Worse.

In 2019, 18% of respondents to a farm bureau survey said feeling isolated affected their mental health “a lot.” In 2020, as the pandemic raged on, the figure jumped to 41%.

When COVID-19 first hit, Illinois farmers Adrienne and Drew DeSutter weren’t sure how the pandemic would affect their lives. Farmers already deal with a lot of uncertainty and lead isolated lives, they said.

But the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated farmers’ feelings of isolation, according to a recent survey from the American Farm Bureau Federation. The percentage who said social isolation affects farmers’ mental health jumped more than 20% in 2020 compared to 2019.

COVID-19 took away some of the only outlets farmers have for interacting with others, such as religious gatherings and farm bureau meetings.

“What we experienced in my own home is that, even though our day-to-day life didn’t change as much, we’ve lost nearly all of our non-isolating events,” said Adrienne DeSutter, who lives outside of Galesburg. “So not only do we have this added stress of uncertainty, but now we don’t even get to go to those stress-alleviating things.”

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