Landmark Study Shows Link between Pesticide Use, Depression

(Photo: flickr/initernational maize/CC4.0)

A twenty-year study of commonly used pesticides shows a significant link to depression.

A landmark, 20-year study from the National Institute of Health reveals some stark data about the relationship between the use of pesticides and the rate of depression in male farmers.

In the study of 21,208 farmers who were “private pesticide applicators” and their spouses who have been interviewed since the study began in 1993, scientists found that the likelihood of depression was increased significantly in connection with two categories of pesticides in particular — organochlorine insecticides and fumigants — which increased farmers’ risk of depression by 90 and 80 percent, respectively.

Of the thousands of farmers surveyed over 20 years, eight percent sought medical treatment.

These pesticides, which are inhaled and absorbed through the skin during application, can alter an individual’s brain chemistry to induce thoughts of suicide; other studies in Brazil and China have positively linked proximity to pesticides with suicide and thoughts of suicide.

Although the researchers haven’t yet identified the exact science behind the link, the paper’s lead researcher, Dr. Freya Kamel, warns that of course, pesticides designed to disrupt animals’ nervous systems can affect humans the same way.

“I don’t think there’s anything surprising about the fact that pesticides would affect neurologic function,” Kamel told Modern Farmer.

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Karen Lo is an associate editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @appleplexy.