Although rural living has been tied to higher risk of depression, a new US study finds that country life may have differing effects on women of different races and ethnicities.
African American women living in rural areas were at lower risk of depression and other mood disorders, compared to African-American women in urban areas, researchers report. Non-Hispanic white women were at an increased risk for the same mental health problems when they lived in the country, compared to white women in cities.
Economic and other hardships are sometimes amplified for people living in rural communities. However, the mental health of people living in rural areas is understudied in general. There’s even less data for certain groups of people.
It also found that non-Hispanic white women were about twice as likely to ever have had depression or mood disorder, compared to African American women. White women were also more likely to have had depression within the past year.
About 4 percent of African American women in rural areas reported a lifetime history of depression, compared to about 14 percent of those in cities. Rural African American women were also less likely to have had mood disorder than their urban counterparts.
By contrast, about 10 percent of rural non-Hispanic white women had been depressed in the last year, compared to about 4 percent of those in urban areas. And non-Hispanic white women in rural areas were more likely to have had mood disorder compared to urban non-Hispanic white women.
Culture could be one reason why rural living is tied to less depression and mood disorder among African American women, said Addie Weaver at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, the study’s lead author.
African American women may benefit from greater family and religious support, compared to non-Hispanic white women.
“Of course there is a need of further research exploring this,” Weaver said. “We’re just speculating on some ideas at this point.”
Until more research is done, Weaver said doctors should know that where a person lives may influence their health, including their mental health.
“It’s important for clinicians to pay more attention to the rural context,” she said.