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Cities Less Dangerous Than Rural Area, Study Says

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PHILADELPHIA -

A new study conducted by researchers in Philadelphia is taking aim at a perception that cities are more dangerous than suburban and rural communities.

The new study is by the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). It's being published in "Annals of Emergency Medicine."

The study says risk of death from injuries is lowest on average in urban counties compared to suburban and rural counties across the U.S.

Lead author Dr. Sage R. Myers, assistant professor of pediatrics at the school and a CHOP emergency medicine attending physician, is quoted in a UPenn news release as saying their study shows the perception that cities are innately more dangerous is not the case.

"These findings may lead people who are considering leaving cities for non-urban areas due to safety concerns to re-examine their motivations for moving," Myers said. "And we hope the findings could also lead us to re-evaluate our rural health care system and more appropriately equip it to both prevent and treat the health threats that actually exist."

County-level data on all injury deaths across the U.S. from 1999-2006 were examined for the study, except deaths from the 9/11 terrorist attacks because of their "unusual nature," the release states.

While homicide rates are lower in rural areas for all groups except the oldest adults, suicide rates are slightly higher with rurality. But both of these types of death are greatly outweighed by the magnitude of "unintentional-injury deaths," such as those from car crashes and falls, especially in rural areas.

"Specifically, the rate of unintentional-injury death is over 15 times that of homicide for the entire population and the risk of unintentional-injury death is 40 percent higher in the nation's most rural counties compared to the most urban," UPenn's release states.

Researchers plan to use the findings to create local injury priority scores and look for innovative ways to continue to improve emergency and trauma care systems.

The Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, the National Institutes of Health funded the research.

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