Rural Life Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , July 24, 2013

A study finds that the risk of injury deaths is 22% higher in the most rural counties than in the most urban areas. While the data reveals some surprising findings, the lead author says she can only speculate as to the reasons why.


Sage Myers, MD

Caution: Rural life may be hazardous to your health.

A study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine finds that the risk of injury death is about 20% higher in rural areas when compared with large cities.

"I was definitely surprised by the findings," says Sage Myers, MD, lead author of the study: Safety in Numbers: Are Major Cities the Safest Places in the U.S? [PDF]

"All of us have this maybe more emotional reaction when you talk about safety as it relates to cities and rural areas. When we think about safety, we think about things that we are scared of, people attacking us and shooting us," says Myers, an associate professor at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and a pediatric emergency physician at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

"So we have that emotional connection that cities are not safe. But when you think of safety as your overall risk of injury to your person with all kinds of injuries included, I was surprised to see that it turns out to be the opposite, that cities are the safest."

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2 comments on "Rural Life Can Be Hazardous to Your Health"

Dave Mittman, PA, DFAAPA (7/25/2013 at 11:52 AM)
The article's conclusions are too simplistic. Are the accidents more severe? Cars can drive much faster. People who are impaired drive without a red light every block so when they hit things they hit them faster. Rural people farm and use equipment that cause injuries, they tend not to sit in cubicles. Even rural sports are more extreme. Take into account the TIME it takes EMTS to reach people and stabilize them and transport them back. All really not a problem in the city. Even with the best ER people the patients come in sicker at times because of that. There are great clinicians in rural areas. There are some not so good. Same in cities. That being said if you have major trauma and can get to a major trauma center, you have a better change of living. Hard to separate the differing reasons for not doing as well though.

Thomas (7/25/2013 at 9:19 AM)
There are any number of reasons for this difference: the rural population is older; rural jobs tend to be more hazardous; rural homes and worksites are isolated and sometimes far from medical services; rural car crashes tend to occur at higher speeds and are often side-impacting "T" collisions or head-on.




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