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Prevalence and comparison of select health behaviours among urban and rural residents: an Atlantic PATH cohort brief report

Cynthia C. Forbes and Zhijie Michael Yu

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Research in developed countries indicates that rural residents generally have poorer health than those living in urban areas. Rural residents have been shown to be more obese and have higher prevalence of chronic disease. These differences in obesity may be due to health-related behaviours that influence body mass. Literature also suggests that rural residents are more likely to be inactive, sedentary, have poor diets, smoking and drinking behaviour.

Approximately 19% of all Canadians are classified as rural; however, in Atlantic Canada, an average 46% of the population are considered rural (43% NS, 47% NB, 41% NL, and 53% PEI). Atlantic Canada has higher prevalence rates of poor health behaviours and chronic disease when compared to Canadian averages. It is unclear what mechanisms may be responsible for these differences, but considering the suggestion that rural residents experience poorer health than urban residents, we felt this was a factor worth exploring.

This research brief uses data from the Atlantic Partnership for Tomorrow Health (PATH) study to identify the characteristics and behaviours of urban/rural residents in all four provinces. We also examine any possible mediators of these behaviours between the urban/rural groups. The purpose of this brief is to 1) describe and compare the characteristics of urban/rural residents in terms of health behaviours and chronic disease status; 2) describe and compare the following behaviours of urban/rural residents: physical activity level, time spent sitting, fruit intake, vegetable intake, fruit or vegetable juice intake, smoking, and alcohol consumption; and 3) identify any characteristics from purpose #1 that mediate behaviours in purpose #2 of urban/rural residents. We hypothesized that those designated as rural would have poorer health behaviours than those in urban areas.

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