Early farm residency and prevalence of asthma and hay fever in adults

J Asthma. 2016;53(1):2-10. doi: 10.3109/02770903.2015.1058394. Epub 2015 Sep 17.


Background: Asthma and hay fever have been found to be both positively and negatively associated with farming lifestyles in adulthood. Lack of congruency may depend upon early life exposure.

Objective: To assess the importance of different periods of farm residency for asthma and hay fever in an adult Canadian population.

Methods: We conducted a questionnaire survey in rural Saskatchewan, Canada. We assessed a history of asthma and hay fever with five categories of farm residency that were mutually exclusive: first year of life only, currently living on a farm, both first year of life and currently living on a farm, other farm living, and no farm living. Generalized estimating equations were used to adjust for clustering effects of adults within households.

Results: Of the 7148 responding, 30.6% had an early farm living experience only, 34.4% had both early and current farm living experiences, while 17.4% had never lived on a farm. The overall prevalence of ever asthma and hay fever was 8.6% and 12.3%, respectively, and was higher in women. Sex modified the associations between ever asthma and hay fever with farm residency variables whereby women had a decreased risk for both asthma [adjusted odds ratio (ORadj): 0.67, 95% confidence interval (CI):0.47-0.96] and hay fever (ORadj: 0.60, 95% CI: 0.44-0.83) with an early farm exposure only. Men currently living on a farm without an early farm exposure had an increased risk for ever asthma (ORadj: 1.82, 95% CI: 1.02-3.24).

Conclusion: Farm residency in the first year of life shows a protective effect for adult asthma and hay fever that appears to differ by sex.

Keywords: Chronic asthma; farming; rhinitis; rural; sex; wheeze.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Agriculture*
  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Prevalence
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Seasonal / epidemiology*
  • Rural Health
  • Rural Population
  • Saskatchewan / epidemiology
  • Sex Factors
  • Young Adult