A profile of rural health in Wales

Andrea Gartner, Rhys Gibbon, Neil Riley

Canolfan Iechyd Cymru - Wales Centre for Health

March 2007

Download Report


  • Wales has a comparably rural environment and around 1 in 3 people in Wales live in an area classed as rural. In England around 1 in 5 people live in rural areas.
  • Rural health is influenced by many determinants such as income, housing, education, access to services and deprivation in general. In this report these indicators are compared between rural and urban areas. Health outcome indicators analysed are: life expectancy, hospital admissions and mortality.
  • The assumption that rural environments are inevitably ‘healthier’ is increasingly open to challenge, particularly as some individual rural areas have considerably poorer figures than the Welsh average, for example on income indicators.
  • The health status in rural Wales is not uniform. There is a pattern for most indicators where the less populated rural areas tend to have better health outcomes and determinants of health than more populated rural areas. Urban areas, on average have poorer figures than rural areas.
  • Some deprivation measures are considered to be more suitable to detect urban deprivation, such as car ownership, which is considered essential in rural areas. The Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation 2005 (WIMD) defines rural areas in Wales as more deprived than the Townsend index, suggesting that the WIMD may be more suitable.
  • The pattern for elective admissions to hospital is different to most indicators, as the rates for urban areas are similar to those for more populated rural areas, whilst the less populated rural areas have lower rates. This may be due to issues of access to hospitals.
  • More complex analysis is required to understand the differences between rural and urban areas, and within rural parts of Wales.