We've updated our Privacy Policy to make it clearer how we use your personal data. We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. You can read our Cookie Policy here.


The Psychological Differences Between City and Country Living

A mail box stands next to a road across from empty fields.
Credit: Timothy Eberly/ Unsplash
Listen with
Register for free to listen to this article
Thank you. Listen to this article using the player above.

Want to listen to this article for FREE?

Complete the form below to unlock access to ALL audio articles.

Read time: 1 minute

Living in the country, in rural areas, has long been idealized as a pristine place to raise a family. After all, open air and room to run free pose distinct advantages. But new findings from a University of Houston psychology study indicate that Americans who live in more rural areas tend to be more anxious and depressed, as well as less open-minded and more neurotic. The study also revealed those living in the country were not more satisfied with their lives nor did they have more purpose, or meaning in life, than people who lived in urban areas.  

The research points to disparities in access to psychological services as one potential reason for these psychological differences. 

Want more breaking news?

Subscribe to Technology Networks’ daily newsletter, delivering breaking science news straight to your inbox every day.

Subscribe for FREE

Since 2010, there has been a surge in rural hospital closures that has also contributed to a reduction in the health care provider workforce, including mental health professionals. Almost 85% of all rural counties have a mental health professional shortage despite rural residents desiring more psychological services.  

“It will be critical to improve access to psychological services in remote areas and to identify how characteristics and values of rural communities can be leveraged to promote positive psychological health,” reports Olivia Atherton, assistant professor of psychology, in the Journal of Personality 

To conduct her research, Atherton analyzed data from two large longitudinal studies of U.S. Americans: Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) and the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). She examined whether there are rural-urban differences in levels and changes in the Big Five personality traits (extraversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, neuroticism) and well-being (psychological well-being, life satisfaction) across adulthood.   

The study fills important gaps in the literature by showing that where people live can impact personality and well-being in adulthood, while simultaneously raising more questions for future work to explore.   

“Given the far-reaching consequences of rural health disparities for individuals, families and communities, there is a pressing need to identify the psychological, social and structural mechanisms responsible for disparities and the ways in which to intervene upon those mechanisms to improve the health of rural Americans,” said Atherton. 

Reference: Atherton OE, Willroth EC, Graham EK, Luo J, Mroczek DK, Lewis-Thames MW. Rural–urban differences in personality traits and well-being in adulthood. J Pers. 2023. doi: 10.1111/jopy.12818

This article has been republished from the following materials. Note: material may have been edited for length and content. For further information, please contact the cited source.