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MU Extension Studies Loneliness in Rural Areas
Missouri Ag Connection - 09/15/2023

Montana State University is partnering with University of Missouri Extension and the MU Department of Psychological Sciences to research the connection between loneliness and mental health in agricultural workers and rural residents.

The study will increase understanding of how isolation contributes to the mental health crisis in rural communities, with the goal of providing insights into targeting future interventions.

A 2023 U.S. Surgeon General advisory, “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation(opens in new window),” documents a historic decline in social connection, with Americans spending 24 more hours per month alone than they did in 2003. The report notes that lack of social connection “is as dangerous as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day.”

MU Extension health and safety specialist Karen Funkenbusch says loneliness leads to poor mental health and increased suicide rates. The problem is particularly acute in rural areas. According to “Growing Stress on the Farm(opens in new window),” a 2020 report co-authored by Funkenbusch, the suicide rate among rural Missourians grew by 78% between 2003 and 2017. Over the last decade, hospital emergency department visits for suicide attempts or suicidal ideation increased 177%. Suicide rates in rural areas are 18% higher than in nonrural areas.


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