As long as you can afford it, country living beats city stress

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Living in the countryside is nearly twice as expensive as living in urban areas, research claimed this week.

A new quarterly survey titled the Countryside Living Index shows that year-on-year rural inflation levels averaged 7.7 per cent over 12 months – compared to the national average (CPI) of 4.3 per cent for the same period.

The figure was driven by soaring fuel prices over the last 12 months – which adversely affect those living in the countryside who are heavily dependent on personal transport.

Not only are fuel prices higher but the typical rural resident has further to travel in their regular day.

The annual inflation of 13-15 per cent in electricity prices during the winter was also responsible for sustaining the rural inflation hike, according to those behind the research.

Increases in the cost of items such as pet food and tools as well as the comparatively high cost of heating oil, which is typically used by country people as a substitute for gas, also added to the problem of above average inflation.

There have also been fast rises in the costs for key rural goods, exacerbating the steeper prices already faced by rural consumers.

The report identifying an estimated 5-10 per cent estimated rural premium paid on everyday goods, with meat, tea and coffee seeing the biggest difference in price compared to urban areas.

In all, the basket of goods used to calculate the data showed that the typical countryside dweller was paying an extra £2,000 on essential goods – £5,992 compared to the UK average of £3,986.

The high costs of living will be no surprise to farmers, who have faced continual rises in the costs of feed, fertiliser and fuel in recent years, meaning overheads have been continually steep.

Richard Percy, Chairman of insurers NFU Mutual who conducted the research, said: “Our findings show that, on the whole, people living in the countryside have a better quality of life than their urban counterparts, but that costs associated with this are becoming increasingly difficult to bear for families on lower incomes.

“While there are clearly lots of people who pay this ‘countryside premium’ willingly, and can well afford to do so, we can not lose sight of the fact that there are also many others in rural areas who don’t enjoy the luxury of being able to move to cheaper areas and are struggling to make ends meet.”

Another source of difficulty identified by the Countryside Living index was a lack of easy access to public transport, meaning people typically have to travel at least twice as far to reach their nearest shops and amenities as urban dwellers.

Inferior broadband speeds and reception – long a source of frustration for rural businesses – were identified as another difficulty, with the remoteness of location limiting the practicality of internet shopping options which are enjoyed by others.

However, despite the rising prices and transport difficulties, the research also showed rural living beat city-dwelling life satisfaction scores in most other areas.

In particular rural-dwellers were shown to be enjoying higher levels of satisfaction with their health and local environment.

As a result countryside residents are happier overall and less stressed than their urban counterparts.