Friday, January 24, 2014

Rural-urban life-expectancy gap grew as smoking and obesity became more rural, study finds

The gap in life expectancy between rural and urban areas continues to widen, with rural residents living shorter lives than their urban counterparts, according to a study published in the February issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Researchers looked at county-level data from 1969 to 2009, finding that residents in metro areas lived an average of 70.9 years, while those in non-metro areas averaged 70.5. From 2005-2009, the average life expectancy in metro areas was 78.8 years, and in non-metro areas it was 76.8 years. (Life expectancy in U.S. from 2005-2009)
Author Gopal K. Singh, Ph.D, of the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, told Science Daily: "When compared to urban areas, rural areas have higher rates of both smoking and lung cancer, along with obesity, yet reduced access to health care services. Additionally, rural residents have a lower median family income, higher poverty rate and fewer have college degrees." (Read more)

Smoking has become more rural in the last 45 years, the study found. In 2010, 26.9 percent of non-metropolitan adults smoked, compared to 19.7 percent in small metro areas and 16.9 percent in large metro areas. In 1976, the rates were 25.1 percent on farms, 36.5 outside central cities, and 37.8 percent in central cities. Obesity has also become more rural. The obesity rate in 2010 was 25.9 percent in metro areas and 33.2 percent in non-metro areas, In 1976 it was 9.2 percent in metros, 9.5 percent in non-metros.

In 1970, median family income in non-metro areas was $2,892 less than in metros; in 2009, the gap was $16,842. The percentage of college graduates in metro areas rose from 17.7 percent to 29.5 percent from 1970 to 2009, and in non-metro areas from 10.9 percent to 17.3 percent. Among major indicators, only the poverty gap between metro and non-metro remained the same from 1970 to 2009, but non-metro areas were higher than metro areas, the study notes. To read the study click here.

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