Arts & Sciences

The psychological challenges of rural living

People who endure the daily hassles of big cities often romanticize life in the country. But rural living is not necessarily the carefree, idyllic experience that many people imagine, said Emily Willroth, PhD, an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.

Willroth co-authored a study in the Journal of Personality suggesting that people in rural areas face unique challenges that may shape their personalities and psychological well-being. “We found that people in rural areas may be especially vulnerable to experiencing mental health symptoms,” Willroth said.


The study combined data from two nationwide surveys involving more than 27,000 respondents. The surveys gauged overall psychological well-being and scored respondents on the “big five” personality traits: neuroticism, openness, agreeableness, conscientiousness and extraversion. Respondents were also scored on an urban-rural scale. Those living in a metro area with a population of 1 million or more were on one end; those who lived in a completely rural area or in a town with fewer than 2,500 people were at the other.

The results pointed to potential mental health differences between city and country inhabitants.

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