Differences in the health, mental health and health-promoting behaviours of rural versus urban cancer survivors in Australia

Kate Gunn, Narelle Berry, Xingqiong Meng, Carlene Wilson, James Dollman, Richard Woodman, Robyn Clark, Bogda Koczwara

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People affected by cancer who live in rural Australia experience inferior survival compared to their urban counterparts. This study determines whether self-reported physical and mental health, as well as health-promoting behaviours, also differ between rural and urban Australian adults with a history of cancer.

Weighted, representative population data were collected via the South Australian Monitoring and Surveillance System between 1 January 2010 and 1 June 2015. Data for participants with a history of cancer (n = 4295) were analysed with adjustment for survey year, gender, age group, education, income, family structure, work status, country of birth and area-level relative socioeconomic disadvantage (SEIFA).

Cancer risk factors and co-morbid physical and mental health issues were prevalent among cancer survivors regardless of residential location. In unadjusted analyses, rural survivors were more likely than urban survivors to be obese and be physically inactive. They were equally likely to experience other co-morbidities (diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cardiovascular disease, arthritis or osteoporosis). With adjustment for SEIFA, rural/urban differences in obesity and physical activity disappeared. Rural survivors were more likely to have trust in their communities, less likely to report high/very high distress, but equally likely to report a mental health condition, both with and without adjustment for SEIFA.

There is a need for deeper understanding of the impact of relative socioeconomic disadvantage on health (particularly physical activity and obesity) in rural settings and the development of accessible and culturally appropriate interventions to address rural cancer survivors’ specific needs and risk factors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)633–643
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Supportive Care in Cancer
Issue number2
Early online date21 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020

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