Background: Various studies have reported a low prevalence of allergic rhinitis in farmers and farmers' children. We sought to investigate whether the protective effect of childhood farm environment is conserved throughout adulthood and how it corresponds to different degrees of urbanization.
Methods: A questionnaire on respiratory health was mailed in 2008 to 30,000 randomly selected subjects aged 16-75 in West Sweden, 29,218 could be traced and 18,087 (62%) responded. The questionnaire included questions on allergic rhinitis, asthma, respiratory symptoms and possible determinants.
Results: When stratified into age groups of 15 years, subjects that lived on a farm during their first 5 years of life had a lower prevalence of allergic rhinitis in all groups, even among the oldest (61-75 years). The negative correlation between childhood farm living and prevalence of allergic rhinitis was similar in 46-75 years of age (OR 0.82; 95% CI 0.70-0.95) as in 16-45 years of age (OR 0.78; 0.64-0.95). There was a significant trend of increasing prevalence of allergic rhinitis with increasing degree of urbanization independent of the effect of childhood farm living.
Conclusions: We found a lifelong protective effect of childhood farm living on the prevalence of allergic rhinitis. In addition, we found an increasing prevalence of allergic rhinitis with increasing degree of urbanization both in those raised on a farm and those not, thus emphasizing the influence of both childhood and adult exposure for the development of allergic disease.
© 2010 John Wiley & Sons A/S.