Pesticide Exposure and Depression among Male Private Pesticide Applicators in the Agricultural Health Study
Pesticide exposure may be positively associated with depression. Few previous studies have considered the episodic nature of depression or examined individual pesticides.
We evaluated associations between pesticide exposure and depression among male private pesticide applicators in the Agricultural Health Study.
We analyzed data for 10 pesticide classes and 50 specific pesticides used by 21,208 applicators enrolled in 1993–1997 who completed a follow-up telephone interview in 2005–2010. We divided applicators who reported a physician diagnosis of depression (n = 1,702; 8%) into those who reported a previous diagnosis of depression at enrollment but not follow-up (n = 474; 28%), at both enrollment and follow-up (n = 540; 32%), and at follow-up but not enrollment (n = 688; 40%) and used polytomous logistic regression to estimate odds ratios (ORs) and 95% CIs. We used inverse probability weighting to adjust for potential confounders and to account for the exclusion of 3,315 applicators with missing covariate data and 24,619 who did not complete the follow-up interview.
After weighting for potential confounders, missing covariate data, and dropout, ever-use of two pesticide classes, fumigants and organochlorine insecticides, and seven individual pesticides—the fumigants aluminum phosphide and ethylene dibromide; the phenoxy herbicide (2,4,5-trichlorophenoxy)acetic acid (2,4,5-T); the organochlorine insecticide dieldrin; and the organophosphate insecticides diazinon, malathion, and parathion—were all positively associated with depression in each case group, with ORs between 1.1 and 1.9.
Our study supports a positive association between pesticide exposure and depression, including associations with several specific pesticides.
Depression and pesticide exposures among private pesticide applicators enrolled in the Agricultural Health Study
We evaluated the relationship between diagnosed depression and pesticide exposure using information from private pesticide applicators enrolled in the Agricultural Health Study between 1993 and 1997 in Iowa and North Carolina.
There were 534 cases who self-reported a physician-diagnosed depression and 17,051 controls who reported never having been diagnosed with depression and did not feel depressed more than once a week in the past year. Lifetime pesticide exposure was categorized in three mutually exclusive groups: low (< 226 days, the reference group), intermediate (226-752 days), and high (> 752 days). Two additional measures represented acute high-intensity pesticide exposures: an unusually high pesticide exposure event (HPEE) and physician-diagnosed pesticide poisoning. Logistic regression analyses were performed relating pesticide exposure to depression.
After adjusting for state, age, education, marital status, doctor visits, alcohol use, smoking, solvent exposure, not currently having crops or animals, and ever working a job off the farm, pesticide poisoning was more strongly associated with depression [odds ratio (OR) = 2.57; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.74-3.79] than intermediate (OR = 1.07; 95% CI, 0.87-1.31) or high (OR = 1.11; 95% CI, 0.87-1.42) cumulative exposure or an HPEE (OR = 1.65; 95% CI, 1.33-2.05). In analysis of a subgroup without a history of acute poisoning, high cumulative exposure was significantly associated with depression (OR = 1.54; 95% CI, 1.16-2.04).
These findings suggest that both acute high-intensity and cumulative pesticide exposure may contribute to depression in pesticide applicators. Our study is unique in reporting that depression is also associated with chronic pesticide exposure in the absence of a physician-diagnosed poisoning.
A cohort study of pesticide poisoning and depression in Colorado farm residents
Depressive symptoms have been associated with pesticide poisoning among farmers in cross-sectional studies, but no longitudinal studies have assessed the long-term influence of poisoning on depressive symptoms. The purpose of this study was to describe the associations between pesticide poisoning and depressive symptoms in a cohort of farm residents.
Farm operators and their spouses were recruited in 1993 from farm truck registrations using stratified probability sampling. The Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression scale was used to evaluate depression in participants using generalized estimating equations. Baseline self-reported pesticide poisoning was the exposure of interest in longitudinal analyses.
Pesticide poisoning was significantly associated with depression in three years of follow-up after adjusting for age, gender, and marital status (odds ratio [OR] 2.59; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.20-5.58). Depression remained elevated after adjusting for health, decreased income, and increased debt (OR 2.00; CI 0.91-4.39) and was primarily due to significant associations with the symptoms being bothered by things (OR 3.29; CI 1.95-5.55) and feeling everything was an effort (OR 1.93; CI 1.14-3.27).
Feeling bothered and that everything was an effort were persistently associated with a history of pesticide poisoning, supportive of the hypothesis that prolonged irritability may result from pesticide poisoning.
Sources and more information
- Pesticide Exposure and Depression among Male Private Pesticide Applicators in the Agricultural Health Study, ehp, 1 September 2014.
- Depression and pesticide exposures among private pesticide applicators enrolled in the Agricultural Health Study, NCBI PMID: PubMed 19079725, 2008 Sept 9.
- A cohort study of pesticide poisoning and depression in Colorado farm residents, NCBI PMID: PubMed 18693039, 2008 Aug 9.