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Equality, Poverty & Welfare Analysis Team
Communities Analytical Services
Scottish Government
1F North Victoria Quay
Edinburgh EH6 6QQ

Summary: Rural and Environment

rural communityAge
  • Rural areas have a lower percentage of the population in the 16-34 age group but a higher proportion of people aged 45 and over. For example, in 2016 18% of the population of remote rural areas were 16-34 year olds compared to 30% in large urban areas. Conversely, 56% of the remote rural population were aged 45 and over, compared to 41% in large urban areas.

Percentage age distribution of Population by Geographic Area, 2016

Age distribution for large urban and remote rural areas 2016

Source: Population Estimates by Urban Rural Classification 2011-16 (Last updated: August 2017)


Useful Links

Age and Rural and Environment Page

Age Page 

  • There is a roughly equal proportion of adults with a long term illness or disability living in rural areas compared to urban areas. In 2016, the proportion of people reporting having a long term health condition or illness was 27% in urban areas and 24% in rural areas. This proportion is despite the fact there is a higher proportion of older people living in rural areas and the prevalence of disability and long term limiting illness increases with age.

Source: Scottish Household Survey 2016: Environment (Last updated: September 2017)


Useful Links

Disability and Rural and Environment Page 

Disability Page

  • The 2011 Census showed that households where the Household Reference Person (HRP) was from a minority ethnic group were more likely to be in urban areas in Scotland. The vast majority of 'African' households were in large urban areas (85 per cent) compared to only 40 per cent of all households.

Chart showing ethnic group by urban rural classification in Scotland 2011

Source: Analysis of Equality Results from the 2011 Census: Part 1 (Published: October 2014)


Useful Links

Ethnicity and Rural and Environment Page 

Ethnicity Page

  • For men, the life expectancy in remote rural and accessible rural areas was around 79 years in 2013-14, nearly 3 years more than in the rest of Scotland. For women, the life expectancy in rural areas was around 82 years, nearly 2 years more than in the rest of Scotland.

Source: National Records of Scotland (Using Scottish Government Urban-Rural Classification 2013-2014)


Source: Rural Scotland Key Facts 2015 (Published: 2015)


Useful Links

Gender and Rural and Environment Page

Gender Page 

  • In 2016, 48% of the Scottish population in rural areas reported currently having no religion. 51% of adults in rural areas reported their religion as Christianity: 31% Church of Scotland, 8% Roman Catholic and 12% other Christian.

Source: Scottish Household Survey 2016: Environment (Last updated: September 2017)


Useful Links

Religion and Rural and Environment Page

Religion Page

Sexual Orientation
  • Due to the small number of individuals identifying as gay/lesbian/bisexual/other sexual orientation in the Scottish Household Survey, data for 2015 and 2016 have been combined to reach an adequate sample size. Over the 2015 and 2016 period, there was a small difference in the proportion of respondents who identified as gay/lesbian/bisexual/other and the proportion of respondents who identified as heterosexual who visited the outdoors once a week or more (45% and 49% respectively).

Source: Scottish Household Survey 2016: Environment (Last updated: September 2017)


Useful Links

Sexual Orientation Page


Scottish Government do not currently have information on the experiences of transgender people in rural Scotland and in relation to the environment.


Useful Links

Transgender Page 

Publications and Outputs

Publications and Outputs

Access to outdoor recreation by older people in Scotland (2016) This report details research on access to outdoor recreation for older people, covering age and disability

Mapping Flood Disadvantage in Scotland (2015) This research identifies and maps the neighbourhoods in Scotland that are most disadvantaged by flooding. It looks at the likelihood of an area being flooded and the socio-demographic characteristics of people who live there. The research found that whilst there are no simple equality patterns in those at risk of flooding, older people and disabled people were less able to cope during and after flooding events.

Rural Scotland Key Facts 2015 (2015) This booklet summarises key facts relating to the economy, transport, education, health and housing, comparing and contrasting remote and accessible remote areas with the rest of Scotland. Includes analysis by age, gender and deprivation.

Factors inluencing rural migration decisions in Scotland (2010) This study coordinates evidence of the factors influencing rural migration decisions in Scotland, and ascertains the implications for policy. It focuses on age/life-stage related factors.

The Experience of Rural Poverty in Scotland (2009) Qualitative research with single pensioners, single parents, disabled people, people with mental ill health, and migrant workers to examine whether and how the experience of poverty is distinctive in rural Scotland.

Drivers of youth out-migration from rural Scotland (2008) A review of the research literature to explore the key drivers of youth out-migration from rural Scotland. Considers age and gender

Growing up in rural Scotland (2008) This report uses data from the Growing up in Scotland ( GUS) study to explore what is distinctive about growing up in rural, remote and small-town Scotland in comparison with urban Scotland. Findings are based on the first sweep of GUS, which involved interviews with the main carers of 5,217 children aged 0-1 years old and 2,859 children aged 2-3 years old, carried out between April 2005 and March 2006.

Housing issues for older people in rural areas (2008) This think piece offers expert reflections on policy actions inferred from the evidence base on older people's housing and support needs in rural Scotland.

All Our Futures: Planning for a Scotland with an Ageing Population: 3 The Evidence Base (2007) Draws on a variety of quantitative and qualitative research and statistical data to bring together some of the key evidence on older people.



Scottish Government Survey Data

Scottish Household Survey - The Scottish Government website provides further information on accessing Scottish Household Survey data

UK Data Archive - Annual Population Survey and Scottish Household Survey microdata is available (through a ‘special licence’ scheme) from the UK Data Archive

External Links

External Links

Please note that you will leave the Scottish Government web site by clicking on any of the following links, and that the Scottish Government and its staff are not responsible for content external to this web site. The research below has been carried out independently of the Scottish Government and the findings do not necessarily represent the views of the Scottish Government or Scottish Ministers

External Publications and Outputs

Green health project (James Hutton Institute, 2014) This research explored relationships between green space and adult’s physical and mental health in urban areas, using a range of methods and disciplinary approaches. Results are available by age, gender and income/deprivation.

Poverty and social exclusion in urban and rural areas of Scotland (2012) The report presents an initial analysis of the Poverty and Social Exclusion UK Survey, focusing on poverty and social exclusion in rural and urban areas of Scotland. It looks at rural/urban differences and at poverty or material disadvantage, along with a broader analysis across the range of social exclusion domains.

Voices of women in rural Scotland (Scottish Women’s Convention, 2012) The comprehensive report is organised around the key themes of education, health and wellbeing, housing, local services and transport and travel.

Special Study on Rural Poverty (SRUC, 2008) A literature review on poverty in rural areas. It explores the characteristics of living in poverty in rural areas and how it differs to living in poverty in urban areas and it identified the policy options and examples of success/good practice in moving people out of poverty in rural areas.

Statistics in more details