Rural versus Urban Living: Differences in Lung Health

Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed*** and may vary from person to person***.

Here’s yet another good reason to move out of the city. I don’t think it’s too shocking a fact that rural living provides more access to fresh air than urban living does, but a new study sort of puts this point into a new perspective. And it couldn’t have come at a better time, as the rate of asthma and other respiratory illness are skyrocketing all across the industrialized nations of the world.

 The study is from Scotland and its main thrust is that rural living is linked to a lower prevalence of asthma. Researchers used questionnaires to prove this. They mailed them out to 1,000 adults in rural areas of Scotland and to 1,500 people living in cities such as Edinburgh and Glasgow. From the questionnaires, the researchers found that people living in the country had 28% fewer incidences of “lung illnesses” than the city slickers did. The goods on asthma — its prevalence was 41% lower in the country than it was in the city.

 If we toss in a few allergy-related skin conditions, eczema, and dermatitis into the mix, we find that these conditions occur 33% less often in rural areas. Finally, people in rural areas who did have emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or coughing problems, still enjoyed a significantly better quality of life than their counterparts in the city did.

 These statistics are hugely one-sided, as you can clearly see the effects that air pollution in a city has on our lungs. All told, city dwellers face markedly more symptoms of asthma than those individuals living in the country do. Although the researchers didn’t try to jump to conclusions, it’s only because they didn’t measure air pollution and other environmental exposures that are typically associated with city life.

 Back in January, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study that examined the lung function of 1,700 children growing up in the greater Los Angeles area. For eight years they followed the kids, who lived in a dozen communities that are known for traffic congestion. What they found were “significant deficits” in lung function during the time the children matured from Grade 4 to Grade 12. The culprit? Smog.

 Simply put, rural living is easier on the lungs. Asthma is rising at an alarming rate in North America. Right now, the number of Americans affected with this condition is at about 20 million. If you think you’re too old to get asthma, think again — more than 40% of asthmatics develop the condition after the age of 40.

 In spring, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America ranked its top 100 worst metropolitan areas for asthma. There was an indisputable link between the number of cars in growing populations and higher degrees of air pollution. See if your city makes the top 10, and if so, then maybe it’s time to write to your local government about enhancing the air quality in your city:

 1) Knoxville, Tennessee 2) Memphis, Tennessee 3) Louisville, Kentucky 4) Toledo, Ohio 5) Washington DC 6) St. Louis, Missouri 7) Allentown, Pennsylvania 8) Springfield, Massachusetts 9) Grand Rapids, Michigan 10) Scranton, Pennsylvania

 Other notables included Indianapolis, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Atlanta, Hartford, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Madison in Wisconsin.

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