A study finds people who live in rural Iowa may have shorter life spans than people who live in the state’s suburban areas. Sheila Burke, with the Commission to Build a Healthier America, says researchers compiled the data using a variety of vital statistics.

Burke says, “Where we live, where we learn, where we play, where we work makes a huge difference in terms of our long-term health, that of ourselves and our children.” The study finds people who live in the suburbs of Iowa’s larger cities may live as much as five years longer, on average, than their counterparts.

“Living in a suburban area as compared to an inner-city or a very rural area, tends to be a bit healthier,” Burke says. “It depends on what’s available to you. For example, we know in some inner-city areas, there’s an inadequate availability of fresh food — fresh meat, fresh chicken, fresh pork, fresh vegetables, fresh fruit.”

She says Iowa ranks 7th in the nation in terms of longevity, which is very good, but she notes, even in Iowa, life expectancy can vary by half a decade. “It depends on where you live,” Burke says. “On average, people in suburban areas tend to have more availability of fresh foods, have exercise areas, have sidewalks, have places where children can play in a healthy way — it can make a real difference.”

She says some large metro areas, even in Iowa, have very few grocery stores per capita — and the same goes for rural areas. “People in rural areas sometimes are more challenged in terms of their ability to get to those because of a lack of public transportation,” Burke says. “Some of the housing stock might well be older and housing stock that is older tends to provide some challenges in terms of its physical condition, whether or not there are toxic materials in old building supplies.”

The Commission to Build a Healthier America is a part of the New Jersey-based Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the country’s largest philanthropic organization devoted exclusively to health and health care. For more information on the study, visit: www.rwjf.org