Many families and individuals find themselves, at least at some point, questioning the advantages of rural versus urban life. Quality of life is one of the central issues to consider in any comparison between rural versus urban living. While a case can be made for either location as being the best place to live, it is worthwhile to consider how these two options, rural versus urban, are similar and different. Important factors such as the capacity to make general choices, diversity, health, and employment concerns all influence both sides of the comparison and although each both rural and urban living offer great benefits, they both have a seemingly equal number of drawbacks. Rural and urban areas are generally similar in terms of terms of human interaction but differ most widely when diversity and choice are issues.
There are a number of positive as well as negative factors that contribute the overall quality of life in urban centers and if there is any general statement to be made about urban living, it is that there is a great deal of diversity and choice. In urban areas, there are many more choices people can make about a number of aspects of their daily lives. For instance, in urban areas, one is more likely to be able to find many different types of food and this could lead to overall greater health since there could be a greater diversity in diet. In addition, those in urban areas enjoy the opportunity to take in any number of cultural or social events as they have a large list to choose from. As a result they have the opportunity to be more cultured and are more likely to encounter those from other class, cultural, and ethnic groups.
Parents have a number of choices available for the education of their children and can often select from a long list of both public and private school districts, which leads to the potential for better education. It is also worth noting that urban areas offer residents the possibility to choose from a range of employment options at any number of companies or organizations. Aside form this, urbanites have better access to choices in healthcare as well and if they suffer from diseases they have a number of specialists to choose from in their area. According to one study conducted in Canada, “rural populations show poorer health than their urban counterparts, both in terms of general health indicators (i.e. standardized mortality, life expectancy at birth, infant mortality) and in terms of factors such as motor vehicle accidents and being overweight” (Pampalon 421). This could be the result of less reliance on vehicles in urban areas as well as greater emphasis on walking. Despite the conclusions from this study, however, there are a number of drawbacks to urban living as well. Although the life expectancy in cities may be higher, pollution (noise and atmospheric) is an issue that could impact the overall quality of life. In addition to this, overpopulation concerns can also contribute to a decrease in the standard of living.
Rural places do not offer the same level of choice and in very isolated areas and one might be forced to commute long distances to find even a remote selection of the diversity found in urban centers. Still, despite this lack of choice, there are a number of positive sides to rural living in terms of quality of life. For instance, living in a rural area allows residents to enjoy the natural world more easily instead of having to go to parks. In addition, people do not have to fight with the daily stresses of urban life such as being stuck in traffic, dealing with higher rates of crime, and in many cases, paying higher taxes. These absences of stressors can have a great effect on the overall quality of life and as one researcher notes, “People living in rural and sparsely populated areas are less likely to have mental health problems than those living in urban areas and may also be less likely to relapse into depression or mental illness once they have recovered from these in more densely populated areas” (Combs 12).
The lack of daily stress found in cities from external factors (traffic, long lines, feeling caged, etc) has much to do with this. While there may not be a large number of stores and restaurants to choose from, those in rural areas have the benefit of land upon which to grow their own food, which is much healthier. Although urban populations have large numbers of social networks and networking opportunities, rural communities offer residents the ability to have long-lasting and more personal relationships since they encounter the same people more frequently. While there are not as many schools to choose from and sometimes rural schools are not funded as well as some others, children can grow up knowing their classmates and experience the benefits of smaller classrooms.
One of the drawbacks to living in a rural area, however, is that unlike urban areas, residents do not have the best opportunity to choose from a range of employment options. While they can commute to larger towns, this gets expensive and is not as convenient as working close to their residence. In general, if there is any statement to be made about the quality of life of rural living, it is that there is a greater ability to connect with people and the landscape. The quality of life in urban areas is similar to that in rural areas in that both involve a high degree of socialization, even if on a cursory level. Where they differ most noticeably is in the availability of choices and diversity, especially when vital factors (healthcare, education, and employment options) are concerned.
Combs. “Rural choice advantageous.” Therapy Today 17.1 (2006): 12.
Pampalon, Robert. “Does living in rural areas make a difference for health in Québec?.” Health 12.4 (2006): 421.