In Germany, more people die of heart attacks in rural regions than in cities. Contrary to popular belief, this is probably not due to poorer emergency medical care, but rather because more people suffer a heart attack, as shown by a current study by the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock.

“In relation to heart attacks, we can say that the core problem of the urban-rural divide is not that the ambulance takes too long to get to the hospital, but that disease prevention in rural areas needs to be improved,” said the MPIDR -Researcher Marcus Ebeling.

The research team evaluated data at district level containing hospital admissions, cause-specific deaths and population figures for the total German population from 2012 to 2018 and the age group 65. Rural areas in Germany therefore have a systematically higher heart attack mortality rate in all age groups aged 65 and over.

Previous studies have shown that ambulances are increasingly arriving later, especially in rural areas, explained Ebeling. “In the case of a heart attack, the probability of survival is closely linked to immediate medical treatment.” A connection was therefore suspected.

Heart attacks are proportionally more common among rural residents – but there are no systematic differences in mortality, it was now said. The higher number of deaths can be explained primarily by the higher number of heart attack patients. According to the research team, this may be due to differences in medical care for heart attack risk factors. The aim must be to improve prevention in rural regions.