Body & Fitness

Children who grew up on farms have fewer allergies, says new research

Sciences finds there's something to be said for a rural childhood.

There are more benefits than just fresh air and lots of land for children who grow up in the countryside – a new study has shown that children who grow up on farms are less likely to suffer allergies in later life.

Researchers behind the study looked at data from more than 10,000 people living in 14 countries. Adults who grew up on farms were 54 per cent less likely to have asthma or hay fever and 57 per cent less likely to have allergic nasal symptoms, compared to children who grew up in the city.

“Consistently across 14 countries, this analysis shows that early-life exposure to farm environments is protective against subsequent adult allergic diseases,” the authors wrote.

The study also found that women who had grown up on a farm had stronger lungs than those who had lived in an inner city. However, rurally-raised men did not have the same lung difference to their city counterparts and researchers don’t know why.

Researchers remain unsure what drives the correlation between a childhood spent on a farm and the development of allergies, although they have speculated that it could be down to exposure to certain microbes, air pollution and physical activity could all play a role.

“As any parent with a small child knows, childcare centres are hotbeds of viruses and bacteria, but it turns out that’s nothing compared to a farm,” the study’s lead author Brittany Campbell from the University of Melbourne’s Allergy and Lung Health Unit told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“We found that for kids in villages, towns, suburbs and cities, not even day care or living with cats, dogs and older siblings came close to endowing the protective effects that appear to come with life on a farm.”

The study adds weight to the “hygiene hypothesis”, which suggests allergies are rising because children are too clean and not exposed to enough the good microbes that build our immunity.

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