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Rural living easier on the lungs, study finds

Living in the country may be good for your respiratory health, according to a study conducted in Scotland, which suggests that rural as opposed to urban dwelling is associated with a lower prevalence of asthma.
/ Source: Reuters

Living in the country may be good for your respiratory health, according to a study conducted in Scotland, which suggests that rural as opposed to urban dwelling is associated with a lower prevalence of asthma.

Moreover, while the prevalence of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and emphysema, which are caused primarily by smoking, is similar among country and city dwellers, living in the country appears to be associated with better health status among subjects with these two lung ailments, the study hints.

For their study, Lisa Iversen and colleagues from the University of Aberdeen in the UK analyzed responses to a mailed health questionnaire returned by more than 1,000 adults living in rural areas of Scotland and nearly 1,500 living in urban areas of Scotland.

In analyzing the data, the investigators discovered that the prevalence of “any” lung illness was 28-percent lower among those living in the country compared with those living in cities.

The prevalence of asthma was 41-percent lower among the rural residents compared with the city dwellers, whereas the prevalence of eczema/dermatitis was 33-percent lower in the country.

Fewer people living in rural areas reported symptoms indicative of asthma such as persistent cough and phlegm and breathlessness and wheeze, the investigators report in the medical journal Chest.

People living in the country who suffered from COPD, emphysema, or cough or phlegm symptoms had markedly better quality of life scores than their urban counterparts.

So why do country dwellers appear to breathe easier? The authors say the current study “prevents us from distinguishing between cause and effect in any relationships found.”

They speculate, however, that there may be differences between rural and urban areas that were not measured in this study such as air pollution, body mass index, diet, and exposure to farming and other occupational exposures that may account for the observations. Many of these factors are known to be important to long-term lung health.