Author(s): Judd FK, Jackson HJ, Komiti A, Murray G, Hodgins G,
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Abstract OBJECTIVE: High prevalence disorders (anxiety, depressive and substance use) are generally assumed to be more common in urban than rural dwellers. The aims of this paper are (i) to critically review studies measuring prevalence in rural as opposed to urban location, and (ii) to argue the need to look beyond the 'quantity' question to the quality question: how does urban or rural place influence mental health? METHOD: A literature review (Medline and PsychLIT) was carried out using the words 'rural, urban, mental/psychiatric, illness/disorders and prevalence', as well as a review of relevant papers and publications known to the authors. RESULTS: Many studies examining urban/rural differences in the rate of high prevalence disorders have been reported. Most use a 'one size fits all' definition of urban and rural, which assumes location is the key issue. The majority fail to show the purported difference in prevalence between the two settings. In general, studies have not examined interaction effects, but have simply treated the independent variables as main effects. Available data suggest that a variety of socio-demographic factors are more powerful predictors of difference in prevalence than is the location of residence. CONCLUSION: Further studies are required to understand if and how rural or urban place contributes to the development of psychiatric morbidity. These studies should mirror the clinical situation by taking into account a variety of individual and community-based (including urban/rural place) risk factors which may be important determinants of mental health and mental illness, and examining the interaction between them. This may then identify the nature of any differences or what issues are specific to, or especially important, in the rural setting.
This article was published in Aust N Z J Psychiatry
and referenced in Journal of Antivirals & Antiretrovirals