If you want to increase your odds of living longer and staying safe, choose your neighborhood carefully. A bucolic spot like Mayberry, depicted in the old “Andy Griffith Show,” is not your best bet. Matter of fact, it may be the most dangerous place around. Especially if Andy’s been to college.
Research at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, shows that the risk of death from an injury is 20 percent lower in a big city than out in the sticks.
“Cars, guns and drugs are the unholy trinity causing the majority of injury deaths in the U.S.,” warns researcher Sage Myers, M.D. “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. This has important implications about staffing of emergency departments and trauma care systems in rural areas, which tend to be underserved as it is.”
When the scientists analyzed more than 1.2 million injury deaths during a span of seven years, they found that the risk of injury death was 22 percent higher in the most rural counties than in the most urban. The most common causes of injury death were motor vehicle crashes,
Though the risk of being killed by a gun 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. But for people age 20 to 44, the risk of firearm-related death was significantly lower in rural areas.
Race was also found to be a factor. Rural counties with large black populations had significantly lower risk of injury death than those with small black populations. The opposite was true for Latino populations: Rural counties with large Latino populations had significantly higher risk of injury death than rural counties with small Latino populations.
And don’t let Andy or Opie go to college. Having a college education out on the farm apparently puts your life in danger, too. The scientists found that rural counties with the highest levels of college-educated inhabitants and median income had significantly increased risk of injury death compared to rural counties with the lowest levels of each.