Want to live longer? Move to the city!


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If you live in a city and ever hosted out-of-town rural visitors, you know how fearful they can be of your concrete jungle. With the throngs of people, loud noises and heavy traffic, it’s no wonder they prefer the quiet existence of non-urban living.

Before you let them breathe another word of distaste for the city, show them the results of this study, which states, and we quote:

“Large cities in the U.S. are significantly safer than their rural counterparts, with the risk of injury death more than 20% higher in the country.”

Yes, you read that correctly. Large cities.

The study — “Safety in numbers: Are major cities the safest places in the United States?”— analyzed 1,295,919 injury deaths from 1999 to 2006 in counties classified according to the rural-urban continuum. The study did not include nonfatal injuries.

The findings: The risk of injury death was 22% higher in the most rural counties than in the most urban. The most common was motor vehicle crashes, which caused 27.61 deaths per 100,000 people in most rural areas and 10.58 per 100,000 in most urban areas.

The risk of firearm-related death showed no difference between rural and urban areas as a whole, but when looked at among different ages, was higher in rural areas for children and people 45 years and older. For people ages 20 to 44, the risk of firearm-related death was lower in rural areas.

In terms of education, rural counties with the highest levels of college-educated inhabitants and median income had an increased risk of injury death compared with rural areas with the lowest levels of each.

Now, we bet you’re thinking: “What about deaths resulting from crime?” The study did find that homicide rates and risk of homicide were significantly higher in urban areas. However, researchers concluded “the magnitude of homicide-related deaths, even in urban areas, is outweighed by the magnitude of unintentional injury deaths, particularly those resulting from motor vehicles.” The rate of unintentional injury death is more than 15 times that of homicide among the entire population.

The study, published in Annals of Emergency Medicine, is not meant simply as a scare tactic to push people from the country to the city. But rather, researchers hope that the results will help shape injury prevention efforts.

"By digging deep into the data, we may be able to tailor injury prevention efforts to the populations that need them, such as seniors in cities who are more likely to fall and rural children who are more likely to drown," said lead study author Sage Myers of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. "This data is relevant to staffing issues as well. Injury-related mortality risk is highest in the areas least likely to be covered by emergency physicians and least likely to have access to trauma care, which argues for using a population-planning approach to improve emergency and trauma care systems in the U.S."