There have been a lot of talks lately about the safety of living in the countryside. Some people believe that living in rural areas is no longer safe, while others think it is a much safer option than living in a city. So, which is it? Is it safe to live in the countryside? In this blog post, we will examine both sides of the argument and try to conclude.
Recently, a report argued it’s less safe to live in the countryside than in the city. This, of course, is entirely counterintuitive. And it goes against every experience I have ever had, all around the world.
The research paper argued that the overwhelming risks of injury and death are accidental. The bottom line is that because medical assistance is usually further away in the countryside, it is less safe to live in the country.
In the United States, the risk of dying from an accident is 15 times higher than dying from intentional injury, i.e., homicide or murder.
They assessed the additional risk of living in a rural area common instead of a city at 40% higher. Even moving to the suburbs increases the risk level!
However, this is not what most think of when assessing country living and safety.
Cities such as New York City have dramatically reduced the crime rate of homicide and violent crime. However, city life is much more dangerous than the countryside regarding such crimes—even in the safest cities.
Unfortunately, some cities have experienced increases in gun-related deaths—for example, Chicago and Detroit. Also, unfortunately, certain cities do not have the fast response times of paramedics and emergency medical facilities found in a better-financed major city.
On average, it can take almost an hour for the police to answer a 911 call in Detroit.
The revealing figure is that of firearm injuries. Very young, middle-aged, and upwards adults suffer more risk of dying of firearm injury in a rural area than in the city. This is almost certainly related to the speed of access to medical facilities in a rural community.
However, young adults are overwhelmingly more at risk from firearm deaths in the cities, no doubt related to crime.
More or less, all types of crime are significantly lower in a rural area compared to an urban area in the UK. Property crime, for example, is much lower. Residential burglary is a third of that in the city. This property crime rate associated with urban areas is a significant cause of stress.
Unfortunately, car accidents are the leading source of death. Compared to any other risk factor in rural living.
The bottom line is that people in the countryside drive faster and take longer journeys, and there seems to be more drunkenness at the wheel. Hence, all this adds to a more dangerous driving environment than in urban areas, where public transportation is also more prevalent.
In the US, they found that auto-related deaths are double as common as those in urban areas.
I know from personal experience in the British countryside that collisions are often catastrophic.
Recently in my area, we had two vehicles collide and lives lost. Although tragic, reporting such incidents in Facebook groups and the like is helpful because it raises awareness. Every time I approach the hidden crossroads where the accident happened, I cut my speed and have a very high awareness.
In the UK, we are fortunate not to have any dangerous animals. The worst that can happen to you in the British countryside is to be attacked by a bull. Or, if you step on it, you might get bitten by an adder, the only poisonous snake in the UK.
There have been occasional reports of Asian hornets. There is an obligation to report these when found to the local authorities to deal with the nest.
Elsewhere in the world, dangerous animals are more common and need to be considered. Take rural America, for example. I remember visiting a work connection in North Carolina. He lived in a suburb of Raleigh, and I was amazed at his description of a black bear outside his home one day.
In Florida, it’s not uncommon to have alligators crossing roads and golf courses. Reportedly alligator attacks are on the rise.
Elsewhere in rural areas in the States, I have seen signs warning of mountain lions and cougars. If you go to desert areas, you must keep an eye out for rattlesnakes.
My feeling is that rural residents need not overstate the risks and dangers associated with animals. Especially when living in a European country.
It is almost always sufficient to be aware of the environment into which you are moving, venturing, and being prepared. For example, suppose you go into a rural place known for bears. In that case, it’s an excellent idea to know how to behave to not surprise the bears and how to recognize a grizzly from a black bear and behave accordingly should it attack.
Earlier in my life, I had to go to hostile environments in various places around the world. One of the things that were drilled into us by the former special forces trainers was the importance of preplanning before going to these areas. One of the elements of this was to know where the nearest medical facilities were.
And always carry essential medical equipment with you—bandages and so forth.
In the same way that you need to know potential wild animals in a country area, you also need to know about the weather patterns in the rural location in which you are living or basing yourself temporarily.
People take small backpacks on long hikes where I live because the weather can change even in relatively low-lying but remote hillside areas. They usually have spares in their car all the time.
If you are going into higher altitude areas, you definitely need to be prepared. Even though the weather forecast may be good, you need to allow for bad weather because it can quickly change. Before you know it, you can be stuck in the mist on the mountaintop. Moving around in low visibility in some situations can be a terrible idea, and you need to stay put for a while. This means having backup clothing and warm gear.
That’s just one example of how to prepare for potentially bad weather in the countryside.
Climate change does appear to be having an impact on severe weather. In places like Florida, the weather can change very quickly indeed from sunshine to high wind. A fact of which the rural population in that state are very well aware.
Hurricanes are becoming increasingly prevalent in parts of the USA.
My advice would be to research and read up on the specific location you plan to go to and be prepared not to fall victim to a natural disaster.
Living and working in the countryside makes you much more likely to engage in activities, sports, and hobbies that may involve a degree of risk. For example, when horseriding, you face the likelihood that you will fall off more than once. If trekking through wild countryside, you may twist your ankle.
It’s always a question of being aware and being prepared. It’s an excellent idea to have basic first aid training, or at least ensure that someone in your party has that.
That said, being in the countryside on balance is healthier for you. In fact, significantly better. Life expectancy is higher in the country than in the US and UK metropolitan areas.
In the UK, on average, air pollution is responsible for killing people at 6-months earlier than they should typically die. The overwhelming exposure to air pollution is in urban areas, and people in the countryside avoid this risk. Rural health to a range of pollution-related diseases and conditions is higher.
Perception of Risk and Impact on Quality of Life
Reading all of the above, you might end up feeling depressed. It might seem that being in the countryside is more dangerous than being in an urban environment. Statistically speaking, this is true for the reasons stated above. However, I don’t think that’s the end of the story.
Life is for living, and it has never been my experience that living in the countryside feels more dangerous than living in large cities—quite the reverse.
While living in London, I studied martial arts, and there was always the feeling that, sooner or later, I might have to use it to defend myself. I have never felt this way in the countryside. For me, the country always felt like the safest place.
In turn, this significantly impacts my quality of life because the perceived safety of the environment I find myself in is much higher. I also feel that health care is better, even if I accept the smaller range of services.
While it may be true that I have had more training than most people on staying safe in various environments. I also did first aid training with the British Royal Navy a long time ago. However, I don’t think most people need specialist education to be safe in the countryside.
It’s enough to know where the nearest medical facilities are and learn the basics of first aid.
If venturing out into the countryside, take some basic medical kit with you – some bandages, antiseptic, and a space blanket if you’re going higher up. At a minimum, know how to do CPR.