The health of rural and urban populations differs, with rural areas appearing healthier. However, it is unknown whether the benefit of living in rural areas is felt by individuals in all levels of deprivation, or whether some suffer a disadvantage of rural residence. For England and Wales 2001-2003 premature mortality rates were calculated, subdivided by individual deprivation and gender, for areas with differing rurality characteristics. Premature mortality data (age 50-retirement) and a measure of the individual's deprivation (National Statistics Socio-economic Classification 1-7) was obtained from death certificates. Overall premature mortality was examined as well as premature mortality subdivided by major cause. Male premature mortality rates (age 50-64) fell with increasing rurality for individuals in all socio-economic status classifications. The most deprived individuals benefitted most from residence in increasingly rural areas. Similar trends were observed when premature mortality was subdivided by the major causes of death. Female premature mortality rates (age 50-59) demonstrated similar trends but the differences between urban and rural areas were less marked.