Rural and Community Stress: A Review of the Literature

Sarah J Beehler, Frederique Corcoran, Cari C Michaels

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rural communities experience substantial levels of stress. Although these communities show remarkable resilience, rural stress is an important, understudied area for research, especially during COVID-19, which will have lasting effects on communities under stress. The purpose of this paper is to review the literature on rural community stress to identify areas for future research. We reviewed the literature using the PsychInfo, Social Services Abstracts, and PubMed databases and included US articles that were published since 2008 and identified rural stress at a community level. We included 50 sources. The stress experienced by diverse rural communities can be understood by examining the interactions among the economic, built/natural, and sociocultural environments of each community. Leveraging rural community-level strengths like social cohesion (e.g., support networks, community centers, places of worship) and the natural environment (e.g., parks, trails, outdoor physical activity) can prevent and reduce community stress by building resilience. Research on community protective factors is key to alleviating stress and building capacity for resilience; however, it is largely absent from the rural literature. Efforts should be made to understand which strengths and capacities are most conducive to alleviating stress in individual rural communities. Community-level stress will be a lasting concern for rural communities, particularly since the emergence of COVID-19. Rural communities can prevent community-level stressors and mitigate harmful effects by bolstering resilience and using trauma-informed approaches where needed. Policy and structural changes are needed to rectify longstanding inequities that perpetuate rural community stress.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32-50
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Rural and Community Development
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2023


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