Friday, November 13, 2015

Older rural residents have more chronic diseases, earlier deaths than urban counterparts, study says

Rural residents 85 and older "have significantly higher levels of chronic disease, take more medications and die several years earlier than their urban counterparts," says a study by researchers at Oregon State University and the Oregon Health & Science University published in The Journal of Rural Health, reports OSU.

"The research confirms some of the special challenges facing older populations in rural or remote areas, who often have less access to physicians, long distances to travel for care, sometimes a lower socioeconomic and educational level and other issues," reports OSU. "It also reflects health problems that might have been reduced if they were treated earlier or more aggressively, researchers say." Lead researcher Leah Goeres said while an urban resident might seek immediate care for a condition, a rural resident is more likely to choose to wait for care or to be forced to wait for care, which could lead the condition to worsen or lead to more illnesses.

Researchers, who studied 296 people, found that rural residents 85 and older took an average of 5.5 medications, and urban residents took an average of 3.7. Use of medication can be risky for older people, especially those who take more than five per day, researchers said. Also, rural residents were more likely to use pain-killing opioids, as opposed to valuable medications to aid bone mineralization, and "medication use for high blood pressure went up significantly over time for rural populations, but not urban ones, in which their use had already been higher." Researchers also found that "the median survival time of the rural cohort was 3.5 years, compared to 7.1 years for the urban older adults," and "the rate of disease accumulation was significant in the rural cohort and negligible in their urban counterparts."

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