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Residents of rural counties were more likely to drink, to smoke, and to be victims of crime. Babies in rural counties, in his study, were more likely to be born prematurely, and elderly people were more likely to die prematurely.

Green Acres May Not Be Where You Want to Be

In the 1960's and 1970's, the Hungarian-born actress Eva Gabor and the late American folk singing star and actor Eddie Albert starred in one of America's all-time most popular television shows, Green Acres. Every episode opened with Zsa Zsa Gabor protesting the couple's move from New York City to their farm near Hooterville, after Eddie Albert insisted:
 
"Green Acres is the place for me.
Farm livin' is the life for me.
Land spreadin' out so far and wide,
Keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside."
 
But it turns out that Eva Gabor's character may have been right. Living out in the country, a Wisconsin epidemiologist now tells us, may be dangerous for your health, at least in his own state.

Dr. Patrick Remington of the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute has told Reuter's Health that residents of some rural areas of his state are far more likely to feel depressed, to live in poverty, and to experience poor health outcomes, compared to urban dwellers of Wisconsin. Residents of rural counties were more likely to drink, to smoke, and to be victims of crime. Babies in rural counties, in his study, were more likely to be born prematurely, and elderly people were more likely to die prematurely.

But Dr. Remington's study only applied to state of Wisconsin.

What about rural health in other states?

  • The Texas A&M University Health Science Center surveyed 1,144 rural residents and 734 urban residents in the state of Texas. The Texas A&M researchers found that rural residents were more likely to drink sugar-sweetened soft drinks, more likely to eat fast food, and less likely to eat fruits and vegetables. They also found that when rural residents did not live nearby fast food restaurants, they just drove further to get junk food. (After they spent money on gasoline, fast food may have been all that was affordable.)
  • Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health found that only 26% of rural residents in Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina could get treatment for a stroke in 30 minutes or less, compared to 70% of those living in towns and cities.
  • And Taiwanese researchers studying US health data found that rural residents were significantly less likely that city dwellers to use the Internet to communicate with their doctors, to schedule appointments and to fill out insurance claims, or to get information about their health conditions.
There are similar patterns in countries all over the world. A study of neonatal health care in Gansu province in China found that infants in rural homes were nearly 2-1/2 times more likely to die during their first year of life than infants in urban homes. A study of colon cancer screening in South Australia found that rural South Australians were about 20% less likely to get cancer screening than those who lived in urban Adelaide or nearby cities. Even in the European Union, rural residents are less likely to have access to basic health services than people who live in cities, and the disparities are even more striking in much of Latin America, Africa, and South Asia.
 
Continue reading after recommendations

  • Sharkey JR, Johnson CM, Dean WR. Less-healthy eating behaviors have a greater association with a high level of sugar-sweetened beverage consumption among rural adults than among urban adults. Food Nutr Res. 2011
  • 55. doi: 10.3402/fnr.v55i0.5819. Epub 2011 Apr 19.
  • Photo courtesy of yeshwanth on Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/yeshwanth/5175943146/