OBJECTIVE: In view of the shortage of population-based rural studies, this research project evaluated the associations between the characteristics of rural work and the occurrence of minor psychiatric disorders (MPD). METHODS: A cross sectional study was carried out on the 1,282 farm workers of 446 farms. Information about the farms (land extension, agricultural activities, technology and pesticide use) was collected. Demographic and socioeconomic data, characteristics of the work process and mental health indicators were obtained from the workers. RESULTS: MPD were found in 37.5% of the farm workers. The risk was higher on farms with a land extension of from 26 to 50 hectares, and lower where there was an increased level of job technology and schooling. The prevalence of MPD was higher among bean producers and lower among apple producers. Despite the impossibility of defining the direction of the causal link, pesticide poisoning was strongly associated with MPD. CONCLUSION: The results call attention to the dimension of the problem and to the importance of adopting new policies for the protection of farm workers' mental health.
Mental health; Rural workers; Pesticides; Educational status