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Keywords:

  • epidemiology;
  • gastrointestinal diseases;
  • mental disorders;
  • rural population;
  • substance-related disorders

Aim

The aim of this study was to examine the association between being raised in a rural setting and physical and mental health among adults in the USA.

Methods

Data were drawn from the National Comorbidity Survey (n = 8098), a household probability sample representative of adults aged 15–54 years in the USA. Multiple logistic regression analyses were used to determine the association between being raised in a rural area and the likelihood of mental disorders, physical disorders, suicide behavior, and parental mental health. Odds ratios (OR) with 95% confidence intervals were calculated, adjusting for differences in demographic characteristics.

Results

Being raised in a rural setting was associated with decreased odds of ulcer (OR = 0.56 [0.34, 0.91]). Mental disorders (any lifetime) (OR = 0.74 [0.64, 0.85]), any anxiety disorder (OR = 0.75 [0.6, 0.92]) and any substance use disorder (OR = 0.79 [0.65, 0.94]) were significantly less likely among adults who were raised in a rural setting. Maternal psychopathology and exposure to trauma were significantly lower among those raised in a rural setting, compared with those who were not. These relations were not explained by sociodemographic differences.

Conclusions

These data provide preliminary evidence that being raised in a rural environment lowers the risk of mental and physical health problems in adulthood. Being raised in a rural community also appears to be associated with significantly lower likelihood of exposure to trauma and maternal psychopathology. Future studies that can identify potential protective factors and mechanisms underlying these pathways are needed next.