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The true cost of living the Country life

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03/07/2012
The cost of living in the countryside has risen nearly twice as fast as in urban areas over the past 12 months, according to rural insurer NFU Mutual.

Soaring fuel prices, and a general increase in living costs has helped bump up the cost of living over the past year, particularly affecting those living in rural areas who rely heavily on personal transport.

The insurer studied a ‘basket’ of the 21 items consumed more regularly by those living in the countryside, which revealed that year-on-year ‘rural inflation’ levels averaged 7.7% over 12 months – compared to the national average (CPI) of 4.3% for the same period.

Richard Percy, chairman of NFU Mutual 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.

An annual inflation of 13-15% in electricity prices during the winter are also blamed for hiking up rural inflation, along with increases in the cost of items such as pet food and tools. 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.

Percy continued: “While there are clearly lots of people who pay this ‘countryside premium’ willingly, and can well afford to do so, we cannot 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.”

The ‘rural-premium’, that those choosing to live in the countryside pay, can be as high as 10-15% on everyday items, with certain groups such as meat, tea and coffee seeing the biggest price difference compared to urban areas.

As a result, using the data from the ‘countryside basket’, the average country-dweller now faces an additional £2,000 a year on essential goods – £5,992 compared to the UK average of £3,986.

The lack of easy access public transport also means that countryside residents typically travel twice as far to get to their nearest shops and amenities. Inferior internet connection and reception can also limit how much rural dwellers can make use of internet shopping.

Despite the rising prices, rural living beat city-dwelling life satisfaction scores in most other areas, with rural-dwellers enjoying particularly higher levels of satisfaction with their health and local environment, and lower stress levels than their urban counterparts.

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