Farm children less likely to suffer asthma and allergies

Sample group extends beyond 10,000 from 14 countries, including Europe and Australia

Researchers found that farm children were 54% less likely to have asthma or hay fever and 57% less likely to have allergic nasal symptoms than those who grew up in an inner city. Photograph: Getty Images

Researchers found that farm children were 54% less likely to have asthma or hay fever and 57% less likely to have allergic nasal symptoms than those who grew up in an inner city. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Children who grow up on farms are less likely to develop allergic diseases as adults, according to new research.

The study also showed that living on a farm in early childhood is linked to stronger lungs in women.

The researchers drew on the European Community Respiratory Health Survey II, which included more than 10,000 people aged 26-54 from 14 countries in continental Europe, Scandinavia and Australia between 1998 and 2002.

Participants were asked where they lived before the age of five, and a biodiversity score from 0-5 was calculated for each of them based on their reported exposure to pet cats and dogs, older siblings and other children as well as how many children they shared a bedroom with.

Nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) had lived in a rural village, small town, or city suburb before the age of five. About one in four had spent their early childhood in an inner city, and 9.2 per cent had lived on a farm.

Symptoms

People who grew up on farms were more likely to have had pets, older siblings and to have shared a bedroom.

As adults they were found to be less likely to be sensitised to allergens, have nasal symptoms or overreactive airways than those living in any other environment.

The researchers found farm children were 54 per cent less likely to have asthma or hay fever and 57 per cent less likely to have allergic nasal symptoms than those who grew up in an inner city.

By contrast, people who lived in a village, town or city suburb before the age of five were only slightly less likely to have asthma or hay fever in adulthood, and no less likely to have allergic nasal symptoms than those living in an inner city.

The researchers, who have just published their findings in the journal Thorax, said there was little overall difference in lung strength among the groups but women who had grown up on a farm tended to have stronger lungs than those who had lived in an inner city before the age of five.http://thorax.bmj.com/lookup/doi/10.1136/thoraxjnl-2015-208154