Monday, July 27, 2020

Study: Rural residents with disabilities less likely to trust news, follow health advice on pandemic than urban peers

Trust in information about covid-19 by metro status of county. (University of Montana chart; click the image to enlarge it)
Rural Americans with underlying health conditions are at a higher risk of catching covid-19 than their urban counterparts but are less likely to trust reliable information sources and less likely to follow public health recommendations for the pandemic, according to a study from the University of Montana's Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities.

Rural respondents reported lower rates of all practices recommended to lower the spread of covid-19, including handwashing, avoiding crowds, social distancing, and avoiding at-risk individuals.

The sources respondents trusted for health information tended to make the biggest difference in their attitudes. Rural residents were less trusting of any covid-19 information across the board, with one exception: though President Trump was the least-trusted of any information source among all areas, rural residents reported the highest relative level of trust in him. Rural residents also tended to place little trust in the news media, whether local or national news.

A Bloomberg story out of Texas illustrates the disdain many rural residents feel for warnings about the pandemic, where "the disease is seen as more threatening to personal freedoms than personal health," Thomas Black reports. "I'm not worried about it," retired truck driver Jeff Donaldson told Black. "It's all just about the politics."

The state's Republican governor, Greg Abbott, initially resisted strong measures to combat the disease, but he's now advocating for such measures as infection rates rise in Texas. Rural residents told Black the contradictory advice from public officials was one reason they wouldn't wear a mask.

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