Nearly one-quarter (23 per cent) of Victorians live in rural and regional Victoria.  

Rural Victorians fair better on some mental and physical health indicators 

When it comes to social capital (the networks of relationships among people), rural Victorians fare better than metropolitan Victorians on a number of indicators associated with mental and physical health. 

Indicators show that adults who live in rural Victoria (20 per cent) are more likely to belong to an organised community group than those who live in metropolitan Melbourne (18 per cent) (Department of Health and Human Serices 2017).  

Indicators of social isolation show that adults living in rural Victoria are more likely to not be socially isolated (39 per cent) than all Victorian adults (36 per cent) (Department of Health and Human Serices 2017). 

Rural residents are also more likely to feel safe walking alone down their street after dark (65 per cent) compared with all Victorian adults (61 per cent) (Department of Health and Human Services 2017). 

Find out more about the social determinants of health.

Indicators of poorer health in rural and regional Victoria 

According to other indicators, however, people who live in rural and regional Victoria experience poorer health than metropolitan Victorians. 

The Index of Relative Socioeconomic Disadvantage shows that rural local government areas of Victoria are more likely to be classified as most disadvantaged, and that this relative disadvantage is having a significant impact upon health and wellbeing.  

Some of the profound differences in health outcomes for rural and regional Victorians compared to metropolitan Victorians, have existed for many years. 

Indicators that show poorer health experienced by rural and regional Victorians compared with metropolitan Victorians, include:  

Cancer 

In 2017-18, there were 22,764 cases admitted to regional public hospitals and 40,680 cases admitted to metropolitan public hospitals. This represents a higher rate of cancer cases admitted per 100,000 population in regional Victoria (1,273 cases per 100,000) compared with metropolitan Melbourne (996 cases per 100,000) (Department of Health and Human Services 2018a). 

Cardiovascular Disease 

In 2017-18, there were 33,259 cases admitted to regional public hospitals and 65,881 cases admitted to metropolitan public hospitals. This represents a higher rate of cardiovascular disease cases admitted per 100,000 population in regional Victoria (1,868 cases per 100,000) compared with metropolitan Melbourne (1,604 cases per 100,000) (Department of Health and Human Services 2018a). 

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 

In 2017-18, there were 6,100 cases admitted to regional public hospitals and 8,813 cases admitted to metropolitan public hospitals. This represents a higher rate of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease cases admitted per 100,000 population in regional Victoria (329 cases per 100,000) compared with metropolitan Melbourne (219 cases per 100,000) (Department of Health and Human Services 2018a). 

Diabetes 

In 2017-18, there were 62,217 cases admitted to regional public hospitals and 131,509 cases admitted to metropolitan public hospitals. This represents a higher rate of diabetes cases admitted per 100,000 population in regional Victoria (3,470 cases per 100,000) compared with metropolitan Melbourne (3,231 cases per 100,000) (Department of Health and Human Services 2018a). 

Mental and behavioural disorders due to substance abuse 

In 2017-18, there were 37,917 cases admitted to regional public hospitals and 92,032 cases admitted to metropolitan public hospitals. This represents a higher rate of mental and behavioural disorders due to substance abuse cases admitted per 100,000 population in regional Victoria (2,367 cases per 100,000) compared with metropolitan Melbourne (2,143 cases per 100,000) (Department of Health and Human Services 2018a). 

Admissions to emergency departments 

In 2017-18, the rate of all emergency department presentations per 100,000 population was higher in regional Victoria (34,109 presentations per 100,000) compared with metropolitan Melbourne (27,161 presentations per 100,000). An examination of the rate for selected conditions shows a higher rate of emergency department presentations in regional Victoria, compared with metropolitan Melbourne, for asthma (380 compared with 303), influenza and pneumonia (355 compared with 278), injury (7,522 compared with 5,171), and mental and behavioural disorders (262 compared with 238) (Department of Health and Human Services 2018b). 

Ambulatory care sensitive conditions 

Ambulatory care sensitive conditions are conditions for which hospitalisation is thought to be avoidable with the application of public health interventions and early disease management. 

In 2017-18, there were relatively higher rates of hospital admissions in regional Victoria compared with metropolitan Melbourne for the following ambulatory care sensitive conditions (Department of Health and Human Services 2018c): 

  • Angina (1.4 per 1,000 persons compared with 1.2) 
  • Cellulitis (3.3 per 1,000 persons compared with 2.9) 
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (3.2 per 1,000 persons compared with 2.3) 
  • Congestive cardiac failure (2.3 per 1,000 persons compared with 2.7) 
  • Convulsions and epilepsy (1.7 per 1,000 persons compared with 1.4) 
  • Dental conditions (3.3 per 1,000 persons compared with 2.5) 
  • Diabetes complications (2.5 per 1,000 persons compared with 2.1) 
  • Ear, nose and throat infections (2.0 per 1,000 persons compared with 1.7) 
  • Iron deficiency anaemia (4.0 per 1,000 persons compared with 3.7) 
  • Pneumonia and influenza (3.2 per 1,000 persons compared with 2.3). 

Improving health for rural and regional Victoria  

At a whole-of-Victorian government level, nine Regional Partnerships were established in 2016. The Regional Partnerships recognise that local communities are in the best position to understand the challenges and opportunities faced by their region (Regional Development Victoria 2015).  

Through ongoing consultation, the Regional Partnerships ensure regional communities have a greater say about what matters to them, and that the voices of these communities are heard directly at the heart of government.  

These Regional Partnerships are providing advice on a range of issues – from transport, education, health and economic opportunities – that all have health and wellbeing impacts.  

As noted in other parts of this report, climate change will have impacts across Victoria, but especially in rural and regional areas: the higher risk of drought, blue-green algal outbreaks and bushfires, for example, will tend to be experienced more in rural and regional areas of Victoria. 

Find out more 

Access Regional Development Victoria's Regional partnerships page.

References 

Department of Health and Human Services 2017, Inequalities in the social determinants of health and what it means for the health of Victorians: findings from the 2014 Victorian Population Health Survey, State of Victoria, Melbourne. 

Department of Health and Human Services 2018a, Victorian Admitted Episodes Dataset. Public hospital admissions, State Government of Victoria, Melbourne. 

Department of Health and Human Services 2018b, Victorian Emergency Minimum Dataset. Public hospital admissions, State Government of Victoria, Melbourne. 

Department of Health and Human Services 2018c, Victorian Health Information Surveillance System, State Government of Victoria, Melbourne. 

Regional Development Victoria 2015, Victoria’s Regional Statement, State Government of Victoria, Melbourne. 

Health inequalities articles

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Rural and regional Victorians

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LGBTIQ+ Victorians

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