Farm Ireland

Monday 19 March 2018

It’s official – growing up on a farm is good for you!

Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

New research shows that living on a farm in early childhood is linked to a lower risk of allergies as an adult, and stronger lungs in women.

Published in the journal Thorax, the research findings across 14 countries show that children who are grow up on farms are less likely to have allergies later in life.

Various theories have been suggested to explain the sharp rise in the prevalence of asthma and allergies over the past few decades, with recent research pointing to early childhood exposure to a wide variety of potential allergens and microbes as possibly protective - the so-called hygiene hypothesis.

To find out whether growing up in any one type of environment is key or whether it’s the diversity of microbes a child is exposed to early on that might count, the researchers drew on the European Community Respiratory Health Survey II, which included more than 10,000 people aged 26 to 54 from 14 countries in Europe, Scandinavia, and Australia between 1998 and 2002.

Nearly two thirds (64pc) of the study participants had lived in a rural village, small town, or city suburb before the age of five. Around one in four (27pc) had spent their early childhood in an inner city, and almost one in 10 (9.2pc) had lived on a farm.

Kids who grew up on a farm were more likely to have had pets, older siblings, and to have shared a bedroom in their early childhood. And a family history of allergy was less common in this group.

As adults, farm kids were less likely to be sensitised to allergens, have nasal symptoms, or to have over reactive airways than those living in any other environment.

And they were 54pc less likely to have asthma or hay fever and 57pc less likely to have allergic nasal symptoms than those living in an inner city.

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Farm kids were also 50pc less likely to have allergic or non-allergic asthma than any of the other groups.

Pooled analysis of the data showed that, overall, farm kids were 53pc less likely to be sensitised to allergens than kids living in urban areas, while kids growing up in a village were 26pc less likely to be sensitised.

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