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Original research
Self-reported psychological distress and self-perceived health in residents living near pesticide-treated agricultural land: a cross-sectional study in The Netherlands


Objectives There is rising concern regarding possible health effects from exposure to pesticides in residents living near agricultural land. Some studies indicated increased risks of reporting symptoms of anxiety and depression among agricultural workers but less is known about the mental and perceived health of rural residents. We aimed to study possible associations between self-reported psychological distress (SPD) and self-perceived health (SPH) in residents near pesticide-treated agricultural land.

Methods Using the Public Health Monitor national survey from 2012, we selected 216 932 participants who lived in rural and semi-urban areas of the Netherlands and changed addresses at most once in the period 2009–2012. Psychological distress (PD) was assessed via the Kessler Psychological Distress scale (K10) and participants were asked to assess their own health. We estimated the area of specific crop groups cultivated within buffers of 50 m, 100 m, 250 m and 500 m around each individual’s residence for the period 2009–2012. Association between these exposure proxies and the outcomes was investigated using logistic regression, adjusting for individual, lifestyle and area-level confounders.

Results Overall, results showed statistically non-significant OR across all buffer sizes for both SPD and SPH, except for the association between SPH and ‘all crops’ (total area of all considered crop groups) with OR (95% CI) ranging from 0.77 (0.63 to 0.93) in 50 m to 1.00 (1.00 to 1.00) in 500 m. We observed that most ORs were below unity for SPH.

Conclusions This study provides no evidence that residential proximity to pesticide treated-crops is associated with PD or poorer perceived health.

  • pesticides
  • agriculture
  • mental health
  • cross-sectional studies

Data availability statement

The datasets on buildings and addresses (Basisregistratie Adressen en Gebouwen, BAG) on land use (Basisregistratie Gewaspercelen) were derived from the public domain. These geodatabases are available every year at and on participants, including outcome and individual covariates included in the statistical models, cannot be made publicly available due to privacy protection of individuals included the study. The data are accessible via de Microdata services from CBS. Neighborhood-level covariates were also available within the secure environment of CBS and linkable to individuals via their address.

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