Empowering Rural Youth

Children living in rural communities had slightly lower well-being scores than children living in urban communities, with less access to familial and social support structures.

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Where we live matters. Our hometowns influence our health, the availability of systems we turn to for support, and the educational and employment opportunities for ourselves and our families.

Children living in rural areas are more likely to die than their urban counterparts. Their elevated risk often stems from barriers to health care access and social services. Guidance from family, friends, community, and religious groups is crucial to children’s health. When children have access to these support systems, they have a better chance to live healthier and happier lives.

Rose Y. Hardy and her team evaluated the social and emotional factors that influence a child’s well-being. They used data from the 2018-2021 National Survey of Children’s Health to assess children’s healthiness, resilience, and ability to regulate their emotions, which the researchers defined as well-being. The researchers found that slightly fewer children in rural communities (63%) had high overall well-being scores than in urban communities (66%).

The graph above compares the frequency of emotional support resources — which contribute to well-being — used by children in rural and urban communities. Rural children demonstrated higher access to places of worship. However, they had slightly lower access to familial and social capital support structures.

The authors advocate for prioritizing the accessibility of social and emotional services, including mental health professionals and peer support groups, for rural children. Additionally, they emphasize the importance of local health systems and community organizations to provide safe places within the community to maximize the well-being of rural children.

All children deserve to live in communities that empower their well-being. Therefore, rural kids need to be provided with the necessary resources to reach the same health status as their urban peers.

Databyte via Rose Y. Hardy, Samantha J. Boch, Mattina A. Davenport, et al. Rural-urban differences in social and emotional protective factors and their association with child health and flourishing. The Journal of Rural Health, 2023.