Objective Identifying whether certain groups of people experience elevated rates or severities of psychiatric symptoms provides information to guide healthcare allocation. People living in urban areas have higher rates of some psychiatric disorders relative to people living in rural settings, however, it is unclear if psychiatric severity is more elevated in urban vs. rural settings. This study investigates the urban vs. rural differences in rates of psychiatric disorders and severity of psychiatric symptoms. Method A cohort of patients (63% women, 85% White) presenting to an outpatient psychiatric treatment center in the U.S. completed patient-reported outcomes at all clinic visits as part of standard care. Rurality was determined by municipality population density. Sociodemographic characteristics, psychiatric diagnoses, trauma exposure, psychiatric symptom severity, functioning, and suicidality were compared by rural vs. urban municipality. Results There were virtually no differences between patients living in rural vs. urban municipalities on rates of psychiatric disorders, severity of psychiatric symptoms, functional impairment, and suicidality (ps>.09). The only difference was that patients living in rural municipalities had higher exposure to serious accidents than patients living in urban municipalities (p < .01); exposure to nine other traumatic events did not differ between groups (p>.07). Conclusions People living in urban and rural municipalities have a similar need for mental health treatment. Access to care may be one explanatory factor for the occasional rural-urban differences in rates of psychiatric disorders. In other words, if people living in rural areas can access care, their symptom presentations appear unlikely to differ from those of people living in urban areas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0286366
JournalPloS one
Issue number10 OCTOBER
StatePublished - Oct 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General

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