In a recent study published in the journal Nature Mental Health, researchers examine the relationship between broadband internet access and mental health resource availability across United States counties, considering social determinants like urbanicity and poverty and identifying geographical patterns in this association.
Mental illness affects rural and urban areas equally in the U.S. However, rural regions, home to 20% of the population, have 60% of health-professional shortages and lower treatment rates due to limited specialists, stigma, and economic barriers.
The challenges in rural mental healthcare include attracting physicians who face potentially lower incomes and fewer opportunities for their families. The rise in mental health issues during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic emphasized the role of telemedicine, which relies on broadband access for effectiveness.
Current research lacks a detailed analysis of how broadband availability correlates with mental healthcare, especially considering urban-rural and poverty differences. Thus, further research is crucial to understand these factors and improve healthcare access equitably.