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Older Americans’ Health Is Poorer in Rural Areas

A new report also identifies states with the highest risk of social isolation

Farmer in brown hat sits on the edge of his red pickup truck in a wheat field.

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Health disparities continue to grow between rural and suburban Americans.

A new study on the health of Americans age 65 and older finds that those in rural areas generally have poorer health outcomes than their counterparts in urban and suburban areas.

The United Health Foundation’s annual America’s Health Rankings Senior Report, which looks at 34 measures of health, also assesses the extent of older residents’ social isolation and its impact on health.

The report found that 36.8 percent of rural-dwelling older adults consider their health to be good or excellent, compared with 42 percent of older people in suburban areas and 41.4 percent in cities. More rural older Americans (32.4 percent) reported falls than their peers in suburbs (28.5 percent) or urban areas (29.5 percent). And just 66.4 percent of older adults in rural areas receive health screenings, compared with 74.3 percent of those in the suburbs and 75.3 percent in cities. And more rural older adults are physically inactive (34.3 percent) than those in suburbs (30.4 percent) and cities (30.1 percent).

The report also revealed that the risk of social isolation is highest in Mississippi, Louisiana and other parts of the South and Appalachian regions. Older residents face the lowest risk of isolation in Utah and New Hampshire.

States with higher overall health ratings also tend to have a lower risk of social isolation compared with states where older people aren’t as healthy, the report found.

The report ranked Utah as the healthiest state for older people, followed by Hawaii, New Hampshire, Minnesota and Colorado.

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