Rural life riskier than city life? U.S. study says yes

Tue Jul 23, 2013 2:06pm EDT
 
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By Julie Steenhuysen

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Contrary to what many believe, the risk of dying from an injury is far less in the city than in the country, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday.

Although homicides in cities far outpace those in rural areas, overall the risk of dying from some form of accident or injury is 20 percent greater in the most rural counties of the United States than in the nation's biggest cities.

The findings may give pause to people tempted to flee cities for the bucolic ideal of rural life, says Dr. Sage Myers, a pediatric emergency medicine specialist at the University of Pennsylvania and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

"As you moved further and further away from cities you got less and less safe. Even going into the suburbs dropped your safety a little bit," said Myers, whose study was published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine. "It's a little counterintuitive."

Myers said when people think of their personal safety, they tend to think about intentionally inflicted injuries, such as being attacked or shot. But the researchers found that the risk of dying from an accidental injury is 40 percent higher in the nation's most rural counties than in its most urban.

"It turns out unintentional injuries dwarf intentional injuries," Myers said, and those types of injuries occur much more often in rural areas.

Part of the differences in the study may reflect reduced access to trauma centers, which are staffed with doctors who are trained to handle life-threatening injuries. Since most trauma centers are clustered near large cities, rural dwellers may be more at risk of dying from life-threatening injuries.

CAR CRASHES, HOMICIDES   Continued...

 
Third grade students Cody Eye and Elizabeth Harder feed the hogs at the Walton Rural Life Center Elementary School, in Walton, Kansas, January 18, 2013. REUTERS/Jeff Tuttle