Healthy Geezer: Highways to health?
Q. Isn’t living in the country healthier than living in the city?
I don’t think there’s a definitive answer to that question. My first reaction to this inquiry was that life in the country is much healthier. It seemed obvious because of the crime, pollution, crowding and stress of the city.
However, the National Rural Health Association (NRHA), a national nonprofit organization, gave me some surprising information that made me rethink my answer.
Here are some of the facts from the NRHA:
Two thirds of the deaths attributed to car accidents occur on rural roads. One reason for the high mortality rate is delays between a reported accident and the arrival of an emergency medical team located far from the scene.
The national average response time for a car accident in rural areas is 18 minutes, or eight minutes longer than in urban areas.
As many as 90 percent of first-responders in rural areas are volunteers, not paid professionals.
In rural areas there is an additional 22 percent risk of injury-related death.
Rural areas have more frequent occurrences of diabetes and coronary heart disease than non-rural areas.
Rural residents are less likely to have employer-provided health-care coverage or prescription drug coverage, and the rural poor are less likely to be covered by Medicaid benefits than their urban counterparts.
Rural residents often travel long distances to receive services, are less likely to be insured for mental health services, and less likely to recognize the illness. There are chronic shortages of mental health professionals in rural areas. About 20 percent of nonmetropolitan counties lack mental health services compared to five percent of metropolitan counties.
The number of physicians per 10,000 people in rural areas is 13.1. In urban areas, the number if 31.2. Rural folk are at a significantly higher risk of death by gunshot than urban residents.
The suicide rate among rural men is significantly higher than in urban areas. The suicide rate among rural women is escalating rapidly and is approaching that of men. Rural youth are twice as likely to commit suicide as the young in our cities. Abuse of alcohol and use of tobacco are significant problems among rural youth. The rate of drinking-and-driving arrests is significantly greater in non-urban counties. Rural eighth graders are twice as likely to smoke cigarettes than their peers in the cities.
After learning about rural health, I don’t think I’ll ever feel the same when I drive on blue highways.
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