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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 January 2006, 13:02 GMT
Countryside boosts mental health
Duddon Valley in the Lake District, Cumbria
Living in a place like this really is good for you
Living in the country is better for your mental health than being a city-dweller, scientists have said.

There have previously been mixed reports on whether the rural or urban living was more beneficial.

Some studies showed higher rates of depression and suicides in urban areas, while others raised concerns over the effects of rural isolation.

But this British Journal of Psychiatry study found people in the countryside do have slightly better mental health.

Cultural and geographical factors mean that the extent of mental health problems in the countryside is likely to be hidden
Richard Brook, Mind

The team, from Warwick Medical School, Portsmouth University and Bristol University, used information from the British Household Panel Survey, which began in 1991.

Rates of both newly diagnosed and existing mental health problems were found to be lower in rural areas.

And those who did have a common mental health problem, such as anxiety or depression, had a higher chance of remission if they lived in a less densely populated area.

The researchers looked at data for 7,659 adults in England, Wales and Scotland, taking into account factors such as age, marital status, employment, financial strain and physical health problems.

Remission rates

The team, which was led by Dr Scott Weich from Warwick University, writing in the British Journal of Psychiatry, said: "There are small but statistically significant differences in rates of common mental disorders between urban and rural residents.

"Rural residents had slightly better mental health than non-rural counterparts."

The researchers said the effect of geographical location on people's mental health was not influenced by socio-economic status, employment status or household income.

Dr Weich added: "The effect of geography is a very modest one, but the main factors are likely to be social - especially interpersonal relationships and perceptions of safety."

However, the researchers said that although they took into account the number of people living in a household, and therefore whether or not people lived alone, they were not able to control for other factors that may affect mental health.

This included areas such as social support, access to transport and healthcare and the stigma associated with mental health problems.

They added: "Further research is needed to better understand these differences, and how these might affect individuals' mental health."


Richard Brook, chief executive of the mental health charity Mind said: "While this research suggests living in the country may provide some mental health benefits, information from our Rural Minds network of service users confirms that there are still many difficult issues to contend with.

"Access to appropriate services can be problematic for those in remote areas, and the further people are from a service the less likely they are to use it.

"Many of the highest risk professions for suicide rates are related to agriculture - farmers, rural vets, stable workers - and incidences of stigma and discrimination are often high in rural areas."

He added: "Unfortunately these cultural and geographical factors mean that the extent of mental health problems in the countryside is likely to be hidden - both unreported and undiagnosed."

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