Poorer health and welfare outcomes in rural and remote areas compared with metropolitan areas may be due to a range of factors, including a level of disadvantage related to education and employment opportunities; income; and access to, and less use of, health and welfare services. People living in rural and remote areas may also face more occupational and physical risk, for example, from farming or mining work and transport-related accidents. The proportion of adults engaging in behaviours associated with poorer health, such as tobacco smoking and alcohol misuse, are also higher in these areas.

The health and welfare disadvantages experienced by rural and remote Australians can start early— young Australians living outside Major cities are over-represented in the child protection and youth justice sectors; for example, children living outside Major cities were more likely to have been (or be at risk of being) abused and/or neglected; and young people living outside Major cities were more likely to be under youth justice supervision or in detention.

People with disability and older people need access to suitable services and community support wherever they live. Providing this access can be more challenging in some regions of Australia than in others. Travel over long distances can be a barrier, and specialist services might not be sustainable in areas with a smaller population.

In rural and remote regions, people with disability and older people might therefore need additional support so that they can access services such as community support programs, mainstream health care, and specialist services. Some people with disability and some older people might also move away from rural and remote areas to be closer to services elsewhere, despite having a preference to live in their own home as long as possible.

The higher death rates and poorer health and welfare outcomes experienced by people living outside Major cities, especially in remote areas, may also reflect the higher proportion of the population in those areas who are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Australians—as a population group, Indigenous Australians generally have a poorer health status than non-Indigenous Australians.

Despite poorer outcomes for some, the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey found that Australians living in small towns (fewer than 1,000 people) and non-urban areas generally experienced higher levels of life satisfaction than those living in Major cities [1].


  1. Wilkins R 2015. The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey: selected findings from waves 1 to 12. Melbourne: Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research.