December 26, 2008

Rural areas have much higher injury rate

Country life may provide scenic tableaus but a U.S. study found injuries requiring hospitalization occur at much higher rates in rural areas than elsewhere.

West Virginia University researchers analyzed all reported injuries of people who were admitted to U.S. hospitals for treatment in 2004. They found hospitalization rates for injuries were 35 percent higher in sparsely populated rural counties and 27 percent higher in more populated rural counties.

The perception is that life in rural areas is peaceful, tranquil, serene, Dr. Jeffrey H. Coben said in a statement. If you just look at violence -- person against person -- the rates are higher in urban areas. But for virtually every other cause of trauma, the risks are substantially greater in rural areas.

The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that as population density decreases, the risk continues to increase.

Large urban counties carried the highest hospitalization rates for assaults, but rural counties led in hospitalizations for motor-vehicle crashes, falls, poisonings and self-inflicted injuries using poisons, knives and guns.

Death rates from injury are already known to be higher in rural areas, Coben said.

By demonstrating that there's also a significantly higher injury rate in rural areas, we're showing an increased incidence of injury is the problem -- not just access to care or the promptness of care, Cohen said.