How do I know if i live in a rural area

Do you already live in a rural area? How do you know if you live in a rural area? For some this is easy. For others it takes more knowledge and understanding to decide you live in a rural area.

Due to the ever-growing spread of urban areas, and the grey line between suburban, urban, and rural areas. It may not always be apparent that you live in a rural area. Below are some ways to help you find the answer.


  1. What is classed as a rural area?
  2. Is my address considered rural?
  3. How does living in a rural area affect health?
  4. Why can living in rural areas be difficult?
  5. Conclusion
Live In A Rural Area-Box Bridge
Live In A Rural Area-Box Bridge

What Is Classed As A Rural Area?

What is classed as a rural area? Farmland, mountains, woodland, forest. Are these rural, or are they wilderness? 

In the United States, the Census Bureau classifies a rural area as a town with fewer than 1,000 people per 2.6 square kilometers (square mile) and surrounding areas with fewer than 500 people per 2.6 square kilometers (square mile).

In the UK. The Rural-Urban Classification is used to distinguish rural and urban areas. The Classification defines areas as rural, if they fall outside of settlements with more than 10,000 resident population.

Australia. The term ‘rural and remote’ encompasses all areas outside Australia’s major cities.

Canada. Rural and small-town refers to individuals in towns or municipalities outside the commuting zone of larger urban centers (with 10,000 or more population).

Can we narrow down this broad set of definitions?

How do you define urban and rural?

How do you define Urban and Rural? A town of under 10,000 in the UK and Canada is classed as Rural. What about 5,000 or 8,000? Both of those are still a lot of people, and we would see that as urban or Sub-urban.

Our view is closer to the USA definition. 1,000 or less in a square mile feels an accurate idea of rural. Over that we feel it is in the definition of suburban and urban. How much open space has to be included in the idea of population density when defining the characteristics of a rural area.

Characteristics of rural areas

So what are some characteristics of Rural Areas.

  • Low Population Density. 

So using the government definitions a major characteristic of rural areas is the lack of people. Small communities and low population density are how most governments define a rural area.

  • Open Space

A low population density also implies more open space. 1,000 people in a square mile will certainly feel less crowded than say Queens New York (20,553.6 )

  • Green Space Between Towns

This also indicates more open space between towns and settlements. So a characteristic of rural areas is the space between them. 

  • Wilderness areas

If you live in a wilderness or remote area you can be certain you will be classed as rural. If the nearest house is a mile away you are in a rural area.

So this all points to fewer people and more space as being defining points of rural areas. What are some of the differences between rural and urban then to help us define this further?

Urban vs Rural

Infrastructure has to be the largest difference between urban and rural areas. Transportation networks being a key indicator. Train lines, Bus service, and other forms of public transport will be more limited in rural areas than urban ones.

This may include, frequency of busses, no metro, subway or trams, or only one train station within the area. Road networks also tend to be smaller and less developed in rural areas.

Facility size is another good indicator, hospitals, schools, and shopping will all have a reduced size compared to Urban equivalents.

Is my address considered rural?

How do you know if your address is considered rural? In some countries such as New Zealand, there may be a postal designations. NZpost for example affixes an RD number to rural addresses. The local postal network for any country is the best place to check your address for rural status. In the US and Canada RR codes usually denote a rural address using the rural route system.

How to determine if an area is rural

In the USA using the USAC to check for rural health care eligibility is one way to determine rural status. In the UK a postcode check can identify if an area is rural amongst other information. So again postal or government sites are the best way to confirm rural status 

What is considered a rural address?

A rural address is any address that the local government postal service has considered a rural address. Governments have systems in place for addressing properties and this is how to find out if your address is rural.

Even if you are out in the backwoods and build a new home miles from anywhere. The local government will have forms and procedures in place to register that home and location as a residential address 

What classifies an urban area?

Classifying an urban area requires a combination of the things already looked at. The address and government status is the first indicator that an area is rural. Usually by the postal address, you can confirm this. Then for most Rural areas, simply looking at the size of the town. The amount of farmland and open space around the towns will be a good indicator.

Beyond that a certain amount of personal bias comes into place. For someone living in a busy city of 20,000 people, an area with 5,000 people may seem rural. Yet to someone in an area with only 1,000 people that same 5,000 people area may appear to be urban.

Live In A Rural Area-Drystone wall
Live In A Rural Area-Drystone wall

How does living in a rural area affect health?

In this post the benefits of living in a rural area were examined. That article looked at the positive benefits of country living. So is there any negative issues with rural life? Like with any type of lifestyle and area there are always good and bad elements.

Choosing an area to live in is a case of need combined with weighing up the good and bad.

What are the major health issues in rural areas?

In a heavily farmed rural area, you may have other potential health issues to consider. Large scale agriculture brings with it large scale use of pesticides and fertilizers.

Working on a farm could include physical contact with these chemicals which may or may not lead to problems later in life. The run-off water from heavily sprayed fields may contaminate the local water supply.

You can assume this is very carefully monitored by the local government. Being aware of large industrial works upriver, or above you on the local water system may also be worth considering.

Access to health services may be limited in a rural area, this can result in a diagnosis of serious illness taking longer. The illness may be quite advanced at the time of diagnosis compared to in an urban area.

Health and wellbeing in rural areas

Mental health can also be quite an issue in rural areas, depression of often overlooked amongst farmworkers. Long hours, and tight budgets can increase stress levels amongst rural inhabitants.

In some areas the lack of amenities and general things to do may also result in higher levels of substance abuse. For the majority of rural folk, rural life is idyllic. However, there can be a dark undercurrent for some who find it frustrating, boring, or prospect less.

Access to services in rural areas.

As mentioned, rural areas may have limited access to medical services, hospitals may be smaller and less equipped than their city counterparts. Distance and travel time can also impact the access to medical services. the more rural the area the longer deliveries may take to arrive so urgency has to be accounted for within this.

Likewise schooling and education may involve longer travel for children, and smaller underfunded schools may lack access to some opportunities for children  (this is becoming less of an issue with the use of online learning to fill gaps).

Why can living in rural areas be difficult?

It can be difficult to live in a rural area simply due to the solitude that can be felt, particularly in more remote areas.

Children can find it hard, but adapt well. The use of internet access, that is often second nature to the younger generations allows them to build social networks with people living anywhere in the world. This online friend base allows children to cope far easier than young adults.

Young adults often find rural areas frustrating. They yearn for city life thinking that the grass is greener. Many feel tied and restricted in a rural setting. Oddly enough once they reach a certain age the yearning to be in a rural area sets in and many look towards moving back to those places they found restricting years before.

Access to entertainment in rural areas.

Bars, clubs, bowling alleys, cinema complexes, funfairs, sports arenas, music concerts, and shopping complexes are many of the places the younger generations, and some of the older generations congregate, socialize, and have fun.

For urban life there may be many of these within a short distance of home. new entertainment complexes appear to spring up overnight in many urban and suburban areas. Rural areas may only have one or two of these close by with the others being a long journey away. 

This lack of entertainment opportunities can lead to the next section.

What are the problems in rural areas?

Lack of entertainment as mentioned is one of the problems in a rural area. This can lead to young adults acting out. Teenagers are in a constant transitional state, and nee dan outlet for many emotions.

The limits to entertainment in a rural area can lead to them making less than ideal choices on ways to create their own entertainment. Growing up in a rural area can be amazing for many children. However once a certain age is reached, sub-urban environments may be more suited.

Why is it better to live in rural area?

This article discusses many of the reasons it is better to live in a rural area. Clean air, less traffic, open areas, a better community, cost, food quality, and wildlife are some of the areas offered as to why a rural area is better than an urban one.

Perhaps a reason overlooked in that article is the fact that in a rural area you have more freedom. Rules and regulations concerning many things can be more relaxed in a rural area and may even be none existent on your own land. You may still need permits required for many things.

Dirt Track
Live In A Rural Area-Dirt Track


A rural area is defined by its government classification, including postal address and census data. From a personal perspective it may be down to the number of people in the area and the amount of open space available. Levels of services and entertainment available may also help indicate the rural status of an area.

Through this and the articles on this site we hope to inform and support people with the desire to learn about and ultimately move to a rural area. We try to keep the information generic as possible and advise anyone exploring this lifestyle change to consult with local government and authorities on laws and regulations

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