High Rates Of Premature Death Found In Rural Wyoming Counties

Mar 23, 2016

Credit Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

A new report, released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, says Wyoming's urban counties are far healthier than its rural ones. The annual report shows that people in Teton County are Wyoming's healthiest while its least healthy are in Fremont County. The report ranks health by rates of premature death.

Kate Konkle is a researcher at the University of Wisconsin. She says one reason for the disparity is that rural counties have high rates of poverty. "Poverty can create stress, and people cope with stress in lots of different ways. And tobacco use and alcohol are part of that," Konkle says.

She says another factor is isolation and a lack of education in rural counties. "We also know that it can come down to education - and again that sort of culture in rural communities where you aren't exposed to as many outside influences. And so if you grew up in a community where smoking has generally been accepted, and your parents did it, it's just an easier habit for people to pick up and not break," Konkle says.

A possible solution to high premature death rates would be better education. "Higher levels of education generally provide opportunities to access things that will potentially be healthier. So things like better health insurance, things like maybe living in a better school district or a safer neighborhood. It may also allow you to access things like healthier food," Konkle says.

Other factors contributing to premature death are obesity, child poverty, teen pregnancy, and alcoholism.