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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Rural residence is not a risk factor for frequent mental distress: a behavioral risk factor surveillance survey

James E Rohrer1*, Tyrone F Borders2 and Jimmy Blanton3

Author affiliations

1 Department of Family and Community Medicine, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, 1400 Commonwealth Drive, Amarillo Texas 79106, USA

2 Department of Health Management and Policy, University of North Texas Health Science Center, School of Public Health, Fort Worth, TX, USA

3 Texas Department of State Health Services, Center for Health Statistics, Austin, Texas, USA

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Citation and License

BMC Public Health 2005, 5:46  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-5-46

Published: 16 May 2005



Residents of rural areas may be at increased risk of mental health problems. If so, public health programs aimed at preventing poor mental health may have to be customized for delivery to rural areas. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between residing in a rural area and frequent mental distress, which is one indicator of poor mental health.


The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey for the state of Texas was the source of information about obesity, demographic characteristics, and frequent mental distress (FMD). FMD was defined as poor self-rated mental health during at least half of the days in the last month. Adjusted odds for FMD were computed for rural and suburban respondents relative to urban respondents.


FMD was found to be independently associated with lower education, being younger, being non-Hispanic, being unmarried, and being female. FMD also was associated with being obese or underweight and suburban residence (relative to metro-central city). FMD was not more common among rural respondents than in the metro-central city.


Rural respondents were not at greater risk of frequent mental distress than urban respondents in this sample. Programs seeking to improve community mental health should target persons with less education and extremes in body weight, along with women and single persons, regardless of whether they live in rural or urban areas.