Study finds rural seniors less likely than urban ones to follow Covid-19 prevention advice, especially social distancing

Rural adults 65 and older were less compliant than their urban peers when it came to following some of the suggested strategies to slow the spread of the coronavirus, especially social distancing.

So says a recent study published in The Journal of Rural Health, which looked at whether “community dwelling” seniors (those not living in assisted living, nursing homes or other congregate settings) had adopted preventive measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to slow the spread of the virus.

Following the CDC’s advice is especially important for seniors because they have a higher risk of dying from Covid-19 if they get it.

In Kentucky, 91.4% of all Covid-related deaths were in people 60 and older. And in December, WFPL reported that per-capita cases and deaths were higher in Kentucky’s rural counties than its urban ones.

The study researchers used self-reported data from the National Health and Aging Trends Study, conducted from June to October 2020, which asked about eight different risk-mitigation behaviors. The survey included nearly 3,000 community-dwelling urban and rural seniors.

The researchers found that seniors’ compliance with each of the eight behaviors to limit the spread of Covid-19 was high, but rural seniors were less likely to report compliance on five: social distancing, limiting gatherings, avoiding restaurants and bars, not touching their faces, and avoiding contact with those outside their households.

However, after the data were adjusted for demographic characteristics, only maintaining a six-foot distance remained lower among rural seniors to a statistically significant degree. There were no rural-urban differences when it came to mask wearing, handwashing and limiting shopping.

Still, the researchers said their findings suggested the need for rural-specific messaging when it comes to such public-health emergencies.

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