Rural elders more likely to develop health problems: study

13:47, June 15, 2011      

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Rural elders are far more likely to be overweight or obese, physically inactive and food insecure than their suburban counterparts, three risk factors for heart disease, diabetes and repeated falls, a new study suggests.

"The countryside can have an isolating effect," said lead researcher Steven P. Wallace, deputy director of the Center for Health Policy Research at the University of California, Los Angeles. "When even a trip to the grocery store is a significant drive, seniors can become trapped in their houses."

The researchers based their finding on analyzing the lifestyles and living conditions in California countryside.

The study found that despite living in the countryside, where open space is plentiful and there is often significant agricultural production, California's more than half a million rural elders have higher rates of developing various health problems than their urban and suburban counterparts.

These problems include:

-- Older adults in rural areas are more often overweight or obese (61.3 percent) than their urban (57.3 percent) and suburban (54.0 percent) counterparts;

-- Rural older adults do not get enough exercise;

-- One in five rural elders do not participate in either moderate or vigorous physical activity in their leisure time;

-- Rural and urban older adults are more likely to be food insecure; and

-- One in five low-income older adults in rural settings report that they cannot consistently afford enough food to last the month, a rate is about twice that of low-income suburban adults.

Approximately 710,000 Californians aged 65 and over live in the countryside -- almost one-fifth of all older adults in the state. Yet rural elders experience unique challenges to healthy living, including a lack of sidewalks, street lights, transportation services, access to healthy food outlets, parks, exercise facilities and health care sites. California's rural areas are also challenged by a dearth of physicians and other primary care providers, compelling many seniors to travel long distances to seek care, according to the study.

The findings were published Tuesday on the website of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Source: Xinhua
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