For years, studies have highlighted the dangers of pollution, stress and other factors typically associated with city living. New research indicates, however, that the average life expectancy for city dwellers actually exceeds that of their rural peers. Additionally, people in urban areas have reported a lower frequently of a variety of medical conditions and chronic diseases, including lung cancer, obesity and COPD. Considering these facts, seniors living in rural regions may want to be particularly attentive to the risks related to residing in the country.
According to the study's lead author, Gopal K. Singh, with the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, the research represents a landmark in terms of understanding the factors that influence longevity.
"We've had information about life expectancy by gender, racial or ethnic and socioeconomic groups, but to our knowledge, nobody has looked at how disparities in life expectancy have changed over time - whether they're widening or narrowing," Singh said, as quoted by Headlines & Global News.
Life expectancy gap on the rise
The study, published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, compared life expectancy rates of people living in rural areas with those of people in urban locations over a 40-year period. Although average longevity is rising in nearly all locations across the U.S., data indicates that the gap between life expectancy for residents of city and country is only increasing.
In 1970, Americans lived to an average of 70.8 years of age - in 2010, that number had risen nearly a decade to 78.7 years. However, whereas the difference in longevity favoring city dwellers was only 0.4 years from 1969 to 1971, it grew to 2.0 years from 2007 to 2009.
Higher risks for rural dwellers
The researchers behind the study pointed to several reasons that may account for the widening difference in life expectancy based on location. According to Singh, people living in rural areas are more likely to be impoverished and less likely to continue with higher education. Limited information and a lack of healthy food options - depending on the region - can also have an impact on the nutrition and lifestyle choices these individuals make. Higher rates of smoking and obesity, each of which are linked to a variety of potentially deadly health conditions such as diabetes and cancer, have been reported in rural areas as compared to cities.
In addition to health concerns, rural dwellers often face a higher number of physical risks. The researchers pointed to an increased incidence of accidents occurring outside of cities, and fatalities resulting from such events may be higher due to longer emergency response time.