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Rural and remote Australia encompasses many diverse locations and communities and people living in these areas face unique challenges due to their geographic isolation. Those living outside metropolitan areas often have poorer health outcomes compared with those living in metropolitan areas. For example, data show that people living in rural and remote areas have higher rates of hospitalisations, mortality, injury and poorer access to, and use of, primary health care services, compared with those living in metropolitan areas.

Health inequalities in rural and remote areas may be due to factors, including:

  • challenges in accessing health care or health professionals, such as specialists
  • social determinants such as income, education and employment opportunities
  • higher rates of risky behaviours such as tobacco smoking and alcohol use
  • higher rates of occupational and physical risk, for example from farming or mining work and transport-related accidents.

Despite poorer health outcomes for some, the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey found that Australians living in small towns (fewer than 1,000 people) and in non-urban areas generally experienced higher levels of life satisfaction compared with those in urban areas (Wilkins 2015). Rural and remote Australians also report increased community interconnectedness and social cohesion, as well as higher levels of community participation, volunteering and informal support from their communities (Ziersch et al. 2009).  

References

Wilkins R 2015. The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey: selected findings from waves 1 to 12. Melbourne: Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research.

Ziersch A, Baum F, Darmawan I, Kavanagh A, Bentley, R 2009. Social capital and health in rural and urban communities South Australia. Australian and New Zealand journal of public health 33:7–16.