In Terms of Safety, Cities Win Out Over Rural Environments

Posted on July 25, 2013

Generally speaking, common sense has long dictated that rural areas and small towns are more dangerous than larger cities.  Many people will actually elect to stay away from heavily urban areas, worried about the potential for automobile accidents and assorted crimes.  But new research turns that common way of thinking on its head, explaining that cities are actually safer than rural areas.

The research, which was released this week in the Annals of Emergency Medicine journal, hails from a team led by an assistant pediatrics professor at the University of Pennsylvania.  By looking at fatal incidents attributed to injury between 1999 and 2006 (and discounting the data-skewing nature of 9/11), he and his team were able to conclude that a person in an urban area was 20% less likely to die from an injurious incident.

When you go to the most extreme ends of the spectrum, looking at the biggest cities versus the most heavily rural areas, there’s an even greater disparity, with persons in the former 40% less likely to be fatally injured.  Although murder was more common in cities, fatal injury rates are 15 times greater than murder rates, meaning that the number of murders in urban areas wasn’t enough to outweigh the other rural injury risks.

In rural areas, suicide rates were higher as were fatal auto accidents.  The author wonders whether improvements to rural healthcare might close the gap and improve safety.

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