Rural America is facing higher coronavirus death rates than major US cities largely due to age
Rural America is seeing higher death rates from the novel coronavirus than its urban counterparts because of an aging population, a new report suggests.
The research examined the impact of age on the potential death rate in each US county.
A demographer found that more than half of the country’s rural counties would have significantly higher death rates among those infected with the virus than the US death rate.
By comparison, a little more than one-fifth of metropolitan, or urban, counties would have such high death rates.
In the US, there are more than 588,000 confirmed cases of the virus and more than 23,600 deaths, but these numbers could both rise more rapidly as the virus spreads to more rural areas that have a highly vulnerable population living there.
A new study from the University of New Hampshire examined the impact of age on estimated coronavirus death rates in both urban and rural counties
About 55% of rural counties had estimated mortality rates among those infected higher than the rate of the US as a whole compared to 22% of urban counties
In rural counties that are not adjacent to urban areas, 38% had estimated death rates higher than than the nationwide rate. Pictured: A woman wears a face mask and gloves in the town of Ketchum in Blaine County, Idaho, April 13
‘We know death rates change by age,’ Dr Kenneth Johnson, a professor of sociology at the University of New Hampshire and a senior demographer at the Carsey School of Public Policy, told DailyMail.com.
‘I’d seen a lot of discussion about how rural populations were more vulnerable because of age, there were no specifics to it.’
For the study, Johnson looked at age-based mortality rates from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, published in The Lancet on March 30.
He then applied those mortality rates to age structure of each county using data from the US Census Bureau.
Results showed that more than 26 percent of the rural populations is aged 60 or older compared to 21 percent of urban populations.
Of course, it’s well-known that both the risk of a severe bout of the novel coronavirus and of death increases with age.
At the time of publication, April 10, the US as a whole had an estimated morality rate of 9.2 deaths per 1,000 infected individuals, using the age-based mortality rate estimates of the Lancet article.
About 55 percent of non=metropolitan counties have estimated death rates among those infected higher than the US as a whole.
By comparison, just 22 percent of metropolitan counties have higher estimated death rates.
‘It wasn’t surprising because, from all the research I’d done, the rural population is older,’ Johnson said.
‘I didn’t realize how much higher. A lot of rural America even now has not been exposed. So much depends on whether the disease gets out.’
The research showed that about one-quarter of rural counties have mortality rates at least 40 percent above that of the US compared to five percent of the metropolitan counties.
This could have an impact on population growth, with new data suggesting the country is experiencing its slowest growth since 1919. Pictured: The recently closed Pickens County Medical Center in Carrollton, Alabama, March 26
And it’s even starker in more isolated areas.
In rural counties that are not adjacent to urban areas, 38 percent had estimated death rates higher than than the nationwide rate; by comparison, only three percent of counties with more than one million people had higher rates.
Johnson said he’s aware of other factors that play role, including pre-existing conditions and healthcare access.
‘I don’t want anyone to overplay age because there are other things that play a factor, chronic disease, access to healthcare,’ he said.
‘It’s not the only factor but an important one.’
Additionally, Johnson points to a new analysis of data from the US Census Bureau that suggests the country is experiencing its slowest population growth since 1919.
Last year, more people died than were born in 46 percent of the nation’s 3,142 counties.
‘A substantial part of the counties are experiencing natural decrease, which is when more people die than were born,’ Johnson said.
‘America was not growing very fast before the epidemic came. For all the cutesy articles that say this pandemic will produce a baby boom, I don’t think that’s possible.’
Source: Daily Mail | Health News