Prime working age natural-cause mortality increases with rurality, especially for females

Bar chart showing change in natural-cause mortality by county type and sex between 1991 and 2001 and 2017 to 2019.

Researchers with USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) studying data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that for less populated counties, the natural-cause mortality rates increased for both sexes of prime working-age people. ERS researchers used data on disease-related deaths, such as heart disease and cancer (natural-cause mortality) to compare changes across the rural-urban spectrum for the prime working-age population (those aged 25 to 54). They found the more rural the county, the greater the increase (or smaller the decrease) in natural-cause mortality rates, particularly for females. Data from two, 3-year periods show natural-cause mortality rates in large metropolitan counties decreased for females and males by 23 and 30 percent, respectively. In the most rural counties, natural-cause mortality rates increased 18 percent for females and 3 percent for males. Across all rural counties, the increases for females were far greater than the changes experienced among males. This chart appears in the ERS report The Nature of the Rural-Urban Mortality Gap, published in March 2024.

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