Lamm, K. W., Powell, A. N., Holt, J., Borron, A., and Atkins, D. K. (2020). Development and validation of a rural stress instrument. Journal of Agricultural Education, 61(1), 32-43. doi: 10.5032/jae.2020.01032

Rural stress is the physiological reaction brought upon by internal and socioeconomic stressors characteristic of rural residents. This type of stress is exacerbated by the complex issues facing rural populations and serves to inhibit the growth of vibrant, resilient communities. The current study sought to construct and validate an instrument intended to quantify perceptions of rural stress among neighbors and communities. The proposed scale was confirmed to have robust content, internal structure, and consequential validity. An exploratory factor analysis indicated one variable accounted for 57.74% of the total variance, while a one-way between subjects ANOVA found a statistically significant effect of group on scale scores under rural-urban continuum (RUC) conditions. One implication from these findings is that changes in communities may function as predictors of stress. Agricultural and extension educators hold a unique position that allows them to interact with the community on a daily basis. We recommend that they leverage this position to educate residents on the effects of stress, reduce the stigma associated with help-seeking behaviors, and discuss available stress management resources. Future research should consider modifying the instrument to focus on individual levels of stress instead of perceptions of stress within the community.

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