Official Study Finds French Farmers Committing Suicide At Startling Rate

France’s Ministry of Agriculture has published a new report that appears to show a grim epidemic of suicides amongst French farmers.

Titled “Surveillance of mortality by suicide among farmers” and conducted by the Institut de veille sanitaire, the report found that between 2007 and 2009, 485 farmers committed suicide — meaning that one farmer committed ended his or her own life every two days.

Rates of suicide amongst farmers were found to be 20% higher than for the rest of the population. The highest rate for suicide during this period was found to belong to cattle farmers aged between 45 and 64-years-old, who had a rate 47% above the national average.

“These figures are shocking,” Jean-Bernard Bayard, Vice President of the main French farmer’s union FNSEA told The Local. “We knew there was a high number of suicides but this study makes it clear how bad the problem has become.”

While French farmers are said to be the greatest beneficiary of European Union agricultural subsidies, their lives are far from easy. Dominique Barrau, the secretary general of the FNSEA farmers’ union, told AFP that farmer had to deal with isolation (many live and work alone) and economic stress — notably, pressure on wholesale milk and meat prices in 2008 and 2009. The study is now being extended to 2010 and 2011 to see if the trend persisted.

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