Downside of rural life: poverty, racism and mental illness

A huge gap is opening up between the affluent inhabitants of the countryside and the hidden, growing band of families living below the poverty line in rural areas.

Far from idyllic, small villages are frequently a place of poverty, inequality, bigotry and isolation.

According to research due to be published on Wednesday, greater patterns of inequality are developing in rural areas, where one in five households live below the poverty line. In many cases, troubles such as racism, homelessness, mental health problems, low take-up of higher education and access to key services go unreported.

Racially-motivated incidents are increasing faster in rural areas with some of the country's prettiest counties - Northumberland, Devon and Cornwall - experiencing the ugliest rises in hate crimes. North Wales has seen a 400 per cent jump in such crimes in six years.

More than a fifth of Britain's population are countryside dwellers with a net annual movement of 100,000 from urban to rural locations. Most people perceive - often justifiably - that the country provides a healthier, safer alternative with one recent report highlighting that 42 per cent of rural homeowners felt they were "extremely happy" compared with 30 per cent of those in urban areas. Yet, the Young Foundation report painted a different picture for those without money in more remote areas of the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland.

While many beauty spots have seen a boom in affluent city dwellers moving in and bringing with them a raft of fine restaurants, their less wealthy neighbours have to contend with a lack of accessible services with shops closing.

Increasing house prices has also left many with no hope of affording their own homes. The highest proportion of low-wage employees in England live in rural areas - yet in places such as north Cornwall the average house price is almost 14 times the equivalent local earnings. The share of homeless families in remote districts rose by almost 30 per cent in two years yet much of it is hidden by "sofa-surfing".

Many growing inequalities, the report said, are due to geographical factors, which make access to health services, banks and schools difficult.

In Somerset and Dorset recent studies found that more than 40 per cent of 15 and 16-year-olds said that transport issues influenced their decisions about whether or not to stay on in education after 16.

In spite of the healthy image of country life, the authors found that many have less access to health care. Most disturbingly, there is evidence that health outcomes for rural patients are poor compared with those from urban areas. In Scotland, distance to services was found to be the most significant factor in the low take-up of breast screening services.

Deeply entrenched cultural patterns and a tradition of self-reliance has meant that serious mental health problems often go unrecognised with much lower consultation rates.

Migrant workers suffer most with little access to services. Accidents and deaths among such workers, the report said, largely go under-reported.

One of the authors of the report, Alessandra Buonfino, said: "There has been a boom in the rural economy and a lot of the community has become wealthier. But, where it is doing better than before, many groups are losing out and the gap is increasing.

"People talk about cities and poverty and they get a lot of attention from that perspective. But things are also happening in the countryside - young people also have nothing to do, homelessness is a problem, fatal accidents are higher. They may be tackled locally but nationwide people don't really know what is happening, she said.

"In some ways, the country is becoming posher and poorer which eventually could become a real problem because an area perceived as wealthier will not get the funding for other key groups."

The country poverty trap

* Areas covered by the top 10 police forces for racist incidents have an ethnic minority population of just 5 per cent.

* 23 per cent of rural children - 700,000 - live in poverty.

* The Rural Communities commission says in five years, 45 per cent of new households will be unable to buy or rent.

* Consultation rates for mental illness were 30 per cent lower in males and 16 per cent lower in females in rural areas.

* The Shetlands have the highest male suicide rate - double the national average.

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star