The great Australian health debate: City vs country living

WHICH is healthier - city or country living?

New research by Sydney University concludes that it may be healthier to live in the country.

The Rural Health Alliance however says health overall is still poorer in regional Australia.

The study, published in the Australian Journal on Ageing, says that aircraft, road and rail noise, air quality, high density housing, poor transport, inadequate road and urban design, and a lack of green space could all have an effect on health.

Of course most of these are more common in the city.

On the other side of the standard of living argument, the alliance says female diabetes is much more common outside major cities as is asthma, bronchitis and arthritis.

Injury is also more frequent in rural areas, while country residents may also have less access to cancer care or services for mental health.

However, if you live in the country, you already have an advantage on a number of levels.

Firstly, you have less exposure to pollution from traffic or industry sources that can lead to respiratory problems.

You also have access to fresh, locally grown foods, often at cheaper prices.

Long walks in the country, or at the beach, are a daily possibility, as is a swim if you are on the coast.

So no need for expensive gyms.

You may even get a workout gardening, or labouring on a farm.

Most country people also have easy access to green spaces, which has been shown to reduce anxiety and stress.

That said, the challenge for those dwelling in rural areas is to minimise chemical exposure, from living on or near commercial farms where a multitude of pesticides are sprayed; making safe use of tools or machinery; and ensuring plenty of social contact in your life.

Isolation has been shown to be a major factor in mental illness.

What it all adds up to is making the most of living in a green, clean environment.


City or country

To get the advantage over your city cousins, remember:

  • Get out often and make use of the natural environment to exercise or de-stress.
  • Minimise chemical use or exposure.
  • Go for fresh, locally grown foods and avoid over-eating, especially high GI foods like cakes, white breads and pastries that can increase diabetes risk.
  • Love thy neighbour, or at least your community. Social contact is important to mental health.
  • Don't take risks with tools or machinery, especially quad bikes or heavy equipment.
  • Be vigilant for ticks, spiders and mosquitoes, some of which carry disease.
  • Do your best to find a good local GP who will help you access services as and when you need them.
  • Have regular health checks as you age, for eyesight, hearing, diabetes and, in some cases, for common cancers such as bowel or breast.


>> To read more lifestyle stories

Topics:  city health lifestyle research rural sydney university

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