Objectives Limited evidence suggests the association between severity of acute occupational pesticide poisoning and depressive symptoms in farmers. The aim of this study was to investigate the association between occupational pesticide exposure and depressive symptoms among male farmers in South Korea.
Methods A nationwide sampling survey of male farmers was conducted in South Korea. A total of 1958 male farmers were interviewed in 2011. Severity of occupational pesticide poisoning was evaluated according to symptoms, types of treatment and number of pesticide poisonings per individual. Depressive symptoms were assessed using the Geriatric Depression Scale. A survey logistic regression model was used to estimate the multivariate OR and 95% CIs.
Results Among total farmers, 10.4% (n=197) reported depressive symptoms. After controlling for potential confounders, occupational pesticide poisoning in the previous year was positively associated with the risk of depressive symptoms (OR=1.61; 95% CI 1.10 to 2.34). Cases of more severe pesticide poisoning, such as moderate- or severe-symptom cases (OR=2.81; 95% CI 1.71 to 4.63), outpatient or hospitalisation cases (OR=2.52; 95% CI 1.15 to 5.53), and multiple poisoning cases (OR=1.82; 95% CI 1.19 to 2.76) showed higher risks of depressive symptoms than did milder cases. Among the pesticides causing the poisonings, paraquat dichloride was found to be a significant predictor of depressive symptoms. No significant association was found with cumulative lifetime pesticide application and depressive symptoms.
Conclusions Our findings suggest that the risk of depression appears to be related to the severity of symptoms of poisoning, type of care received and the number of previous episodes of acute poisonings.