Anxiety and depression following cumulative low-level exposure to organophosphate pesticides

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Abstract

Previous research suggests that individuals with a prior history of pesticide poisoning are at increased risk of psychiatric disorder (Freire and Koifman, 2013), but findings regarding the impact of cumulative low-level exposure are inconsistent. The aim of the current study was to investigate whether sheep farmers with a history of low-level exposure to organophosphate pesticides (1) report a higher level of psychological distress on subjective symptom questionnaires, compared to unexposed controls (2) also meet internationally agreed diagnostic criteria for a psychiatric disorder more often than unexposed controls. 127sheep farmers were evaluated and compared to 78 unexposed controls, matched in terms of gender, education, level of intelligence, working status and area of residence. Both self-report measures and structured clinical interviews were used to assess mental health. The exposed cohort reported significantly higher rates of anxiety and depression when self-report questionnaires were used to evaluate mood, even when stressful life events, demographic and physical health factors were taken into account. However, when diagnostic interviews were used to assess mood, this pattern only held true for anxiety.

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