In 2000, 59 million people, or approximately 21 percent of the population, lived in a rural area.1 Residents of rural areas tend to be older, poorer, less educated, have fewer health care providers and live farther from health care resources than their metropolitan counterparts. These issues increase special health concerns and barriers that can lead to poorer health, especially for women.

In 2002, women in non-metropolitan areas were more likely to be older than men in the same regions and than women in metropolitan areas. Among women living in non-metro areas, 17.3 percent were aged 65-90, compared to 13.8 percent of men in non-metro areas and 13.4 percent of metropolitan women.

Rural women were also more likely to report poorer health status than urban women. Of women in non-metro regions, 14.5 percent reported their health status to be fair or poor, a percentage that was not significantly different from men in the same areas, but was significantly higher than that of women in metropolitan areas (11.1 percent). Conversely, only 25.4 percent of non-metropolitan women described their health status as excellent, compared to 29.6 percent of non-metropolitan men and 29.9 percent of metropolitan women.

Women in non-metropolitan areas spend more on health care than their urban counterparts. The average annual health care expenditure for females in non-metropolitan areas was $3,358, compared to $2,949 for non-metropolitan males and $3,063 for metropolitan women.

HRSA’s Office of Rural Health Policy (ORHP) maintains a wide range of programs to address the health of rural women. It supports the Rural Assistance Center,, which has information on rural women’s health and domestic abuse in rural areas. ORHP currently supports six community rural health outreach grantees throughout the U.S. that are addressing women’s health and domestic violence issues. ORHP is also funding a study of poverty, parental stress, and violent disagreements in the home among rural families. Other research addresses the quality of women’s care in rural health clinics.

Graph: US Population by Age, Sex and Area of Residence[d]

Graph: US Population by Health Status, Sex and Area of Residence[d]

1 U.S. Census Bureau 2000. 2000 Summary File 1. Table P2.