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Survey of Rural Decision Makers 2021

We used the WHO-5 Index to evaluate the well-being of commercial farmers, foresters and growers and lifestyle block owners.

The WHO-5 Index was developed over 20 years ago to assess well-being, and has become the most common measure of well-being worldwide. It is based on a short questionnaire reflecting on the previous two weeks and is measured on a 0–25 scale.

At risk of mental illness and depression

While the share of commercial operators who fell below the threshold score of 13 was similar to the NZ population as a whole, there was considerable variation across sectors.

By sector


We asked farmers, foresters and growers how often they felt stress.

Primary causes of stress for commercial operators

Stress affects optimism


1 Stahlmann-Brown P 2021. Survey of Rural Decision Makers 2021. Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research. DOI: 10.7931/ 3tcs-wb24
2 IPSOS (2021). Well-being amongst New Zealanders.
3 Sischka, P. E., Costa, A. P., Steffgen, G., & Schmidt, A. F. (2020). The WHO-5 well-being index–validation based on item response theory and the analysis of measurement invariance across 35 countries. Journal of Affective Disorders Reports, 1, 100020.

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About the survey

The Survey of Rural Decision Makers (SRDM) is a biennial survey of New Zealand’s primary sector conducted by Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research since 2013. It covers commercial farmers, foresters and growers as well as lifestyle block owners from Cape Reinga to Rakiura.

SRDM is designed to build a better picture of decision making at the farm level, tackling topics that cannot be easily addressed in official statistics or directly by organisations. It is a valuable resource for policy makers, regional councils, industry groups and businesses.

Further information