Review of Current Research on Rural/Urban Differences in Social Determinants of Health

Research center:
Lead researcher:
Project funded:
September 2022
Anticipated completion date:
May 2024

A 2019 publication describing the prevalence of social determinants of health found that over half of a nationally representative sample has at least one social determinant of health need. The most common social determinants of health needs were low education, low income, being uninsured, food insecurity, housing insecurity, and being unemployed/underemployed. This publication did not analyze data based on rural/urban status. Another publication from 2017 found some differences in rural/urban health outcomes related to social determinants of health, including lower life expectancy and higher child and infant mortality rates in rural communities.

The Healthy People 2030 initiative notes that acknowledging and addressing social determinants of health requires more than promoting healthy choices or providing health education ("Social Determinants of Health - Healthy People 2030"). Addressing and improving social determinants requires multi-sectoral collaboration to improve the conditions in which people live. Public health, health care agencies, and policymakers play critical roles in assessing current social determinants of health, implementing policies and programs to address identified needs, and evaluating the success of those programs.

This project will draw from existing Rural Health Centers' work, including recent policy briefs and presentations, government agencies' reports, and peer-reviewed journal articles. We will summarize what is currently known about social determinants of health needs among rural populations and how their needs differ from those in urban areas. The findings will inform further research or policies and programs aimed at improving the social determinants of health in rural communities.