Rural-urban disparities in health: how does Canada fare and how does Canada compare with Australia?

Aust J Rural Health. 2009 Feb;17(1):58-64. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1584.2008.01039.x.


Objective: To analyse rural-urban and intra-rural disparities in health status in Canada and to compare Canada with Australia with respect to such disparities.

Design: Four indicators were used to show rural-urban and intra-rural differences in health status: (i) mortality due to circulatory diseases, (ii) mortality due to cancer, (iii) injury-related mortality; and (iv) all-cause mortality. Rural was disaggregated into finer categories based on degree of remoteness, using the Metropolitan Influence Zone classification in Canada and the Accessibility/Remoteness Index of Australia. Comparisons were made using age-standardised mortality rates and standardised mortality ratios.

Participants: Rural and urban populations of Canada and Australia.

Results: The study confirmed previous findings that rural Canadians tended to have poorer health status than their urban counterparts. However, when rural was disaggregated into finer categories, different health status patterns emerged. Although the most rural areas tended to have the worst health status, the least rural areas generally enjoyed good health. The Canada-Australia comparisons revealed convergence and divergence.

Conclusions: The similarities between Canada and Australia show that rural-urban disparities in health status are not limited to a particular country. For several causes of death, whereas the mortality risks in Rural 1 areas in Canada are significantly lower than in urban areas, the opposite is true in Australia, suggesting that although there are some common patterns across the two countries in relation to rural-urban health status disparities, nation-specific uniqueness is to be expected.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Health Status Indicators
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Rural Health*
  • Urban Health*
  • Young Adult