Myth buster: Cities safer than the country

By , Posted on 24 July 2013

injury deaths higher in country than citiesThe risk of death due to injuries -- which includes fatal car crashes and gun-related deaths -- is more than 20 percent higher in rural areas than in large cities, according to a new study, debunking the myth that country living is safer than urban dwelling.

Here are some key findings of the study "Safety in numbers: Are Major Cities the Safest Place in the U.S.?":

  • The risk of injury death was 22 percent higher in the most rural counties than in the most urban, based on analysis of 1.3 million injury deaths occurring between 1999 and 2006.
  • The most common causes of injury death were motor vehicle crashes, leading to 28 deaths per 100,000 people in most rural areas and 11 per 100,000 in most urban areas.
  • Though the risk of firearm-related death showed no difference across the rural-urban spectrum in the entire population as a whole, when age subgroups were studied, firearm-related deaths were found to be significantly higher in rural areas for children and people 45 years and older; however, for people age 20 to 44, the risk of firearm-related death was significantly lower in rural areas.

"Although the risk of homicide is higher in big cities, the risk of unintentional injury death is 40 percent higher in the most rural areas than in the most urban. And overall, the rate of unintentional injury dwarfs the risk of homicide, with the rate of unintentional injury more than 15 times that of homicide among the entire population," lead study author Sage Myers, MD, MSCE, of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pa., said in a statement.. " This has important implications about staffing of emergency departments and trauma care systems in rural areas, which tend to be underserved as it is."

Race and income also played a role in the report results:

  • Rural counties with large black populations had significantly lower risk of injury death than those with small black populations.
  • Rural counties with large Latino populations had significantly higher risk of injury death than rural counties with small Latino populations.
  • Rural counties with the highest levels of college-educated people and median income had significantly increased risk of injury death compared to rural counties with the lowest levels of each.
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Des Toups

Des Toups

Managing editor

Des Toups is a writer, editor and expert on insurance, cars and personal finance. He has written extensively about all three for national publications such as MSN and major newspapers such as the Seattle Times. He has been quoted about insurance issues in The New York Times, USA Today and Kiplinger's.


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