Background: Despite prior research demonstrating higher injury-mortality rates among rural populations, few studies have examined the differences in nonfatal injury risk between rural and urban populations. The objective of this study was to compare injury-hospitalization rates between rural and urban populations using population-based national estimates derived from patient-encounter data.
Methods: A cross-sectional analysis of the 2004 Nationwide Inpatient Sample was conducted in 2007. Rural-urban classifications were determined based on residence. SUDAAN software and U.S. Census population estimates were used to calculate nationally representative injury-hospitalization rates. Injury rates between rural and urban categories were compared with rate ratios and 95% CIs.
Results: An estimated 1.9 million (95% CI=1,800,250-1,997,801) injury-related hospitalizations were identified. Overall, injury-hospitalization rates generally increased with increasing rurality; rates were 27% higher in large rural counties (95% CI=10%, 44%) and 35% higher in small rural counties (95% CI=16%, 55%). While hospitalization rates for assaults were highest in large urban counties, the rates for unintentional injuries from motor vehicle traffic, falls, and poisonings were higher in rural populations. Rates for self-inflicted injuries from poisonings, cuttings, and firearms were higher in rural counties. The total estimated hospital charges for injuries were more than $50 billion. On a per-capita basis, hospital charges were highest for rural populations.
Conclusions: These findings highlight the substantial burden imposed by injury on the U.S. population and the significantly increased risk for those residing in rural locations. Prevention and intervention efforts in rural areas should be expanded and should focus on risk factors unique to these populations.