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Study finds gap in life expectancy between urban and rural France

The Local France
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Study finds gap in life expectancy between urban and rural France
A French farmer works his field in northwestern France (Photo by JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER / AFP)

A recent study commissioned by the Association of Rural Mayors of France found that life expectancy can differ by up to 1.4 years between those living in rural and urban areas.

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A recent study found that life expectancy in France can differ greatly - by as much as 1.4 years - between those living in rural and urban areas.

The report, which was commissioned by the Association of Rural Mayors of France, was published on Friday.

Health expert Jean-Pierre Thierry told BFMTV that the difficulties encountered when accessing care can explain the differences between rural and urban areas in France. 

"The chronically ill will be less well monitored in rural areas because there will be difficulties in accessing a doctor. There are also fewer physiotherapists and fewer nurses. As such, the health of those in rural areas can worsen faster than if it was well monitored in a denser area", Thierry told BFMTV.

Around a third of France has a shortage of doctors, dentists or other medical services, known as 'medical deserts'.

In response to this issue, François Braun, France's Health Minister, has promised that all chronically ill patients without a general practitioner will be contacted before the month of June with "concrete solutions".

READ MORE: What to do if you live in one of France’s ‘medical deserts’

Isabelle Dugelet, the mayor of La Gresle in the Loire département, told the French news channel that delays in accessing emergency services is also to blame. 

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The new results for the study showed that the divide between life expectancy in rural versus urban areas has gotten closer in the last two years. However, experts believe this is due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which impacted life expectancy in France, and was particularly deadly in densely populated areas.

Specifically, the study found that for the period of 1990 to 2021, the gap narrowed to 1.4 years of difference for men, and 0.8 for women, compared to an average 2.2 years difference for men, and 0.9 for women, between 1990 and 2019.

Despite this, the divide between life expectancy in rural and urban areas in France is still of concern. According to a map showing the comparative mortality index (CMI) across France, one of the primary indicators for life expectancy remains one's geographic location. France's Nord département, for instance, recorded a higher mortality risk than the national average.

And within départements, the results can vary depending on whether one lives in a more built up area, closer to health services. 

In total, the study found that there are "14,216 more deaths per year in rural areas than would be expected if life expectancy were identical to that in cities".

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