Impact of Stress on Farmworker Families

Many factors impact the health of agricultural workers, including workplace hazards, exposure to chemicals, limited resources, and access to medical care.  Seasonal variations in work demand can also lower their control over the work environment.  This can increase the risk for adverse health effects in workers, which can then impact their children and families. Pilot funding from the Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety & Health Center (PNASH; was used to examine the impact of stress of farmworker families.


Based on interviews with agricultural families, we developed a questionnaire to look at stressors, such as access to medical care, childcare, social and work place support.  Thirty-two couples were interviewed at a low work demand time (pruning) and a high work demand time (harvest). We collected hair samples from the participants to measure cortisol, a biological marker of stress. 


This project will allow us to characterize the risk factors and basic health parameters in agricultural families and to examine changes in these due to workplace activities. Acculturation, access to resources, hard physical labor and fluctuating employment opportunities may be countered by strong social support and family networks. The association between self-reported stress and a biological marker of stress will also be examined.