Rural areas are accredited to enormous benefits regarding the physical health of the inhabitants. It is also said that the environment of countryside is free of all kinds of pollution and reduces the risks of various hazards especially asthma and other respiratory diseases.
A more recent research conducted in the University of Ulm and University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder), suggested that children raised up in rural areas around domestic animals have more durable immunity and a stress-resilient immune system. Christopher Lowry from CU Boulder, the co-author, documented that children exposed to rural settlements, exclusively to pets, during their developmental stages have reduced risks of asthma and other allergies.
The experiments regarding the study were conducted employing forty German men, between 20-40 years old. Half of them were asked to live in a rural area around domestic animals and the others were kept under urban environment without pets and animals.
The stress level of the participants was tested by assigning them different tasks like delivering a speech in front of the audience and solving a complicated mathematics’ problem under pressure. The immune responses were tested by taking blood and saliva samples before and after the respective tasks were carried out.
The results that came were as follow,
The group of men exposed to the urban surroundings showed elevated levels of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), that is a component of immune system produced under stress. High levels of the inflammatory compound interleukin-6 were also observed. Muted activation of the anti-inflammatory compound interleukin-10 was also reported in the participants of the respective group.
Christopher Lowry explained that the group of men who were asked to accommodate urban environment had a much-overstated stimulation of the inflammatory compounds in response to the stress conditions, and it endured for around two-hours per period. However, they were uninformed of the fact that they were at higher risks of developing a mental illness and that they have weaker immune systems.
In addition, Lowry explained that the immune system of the participants from urban areas was unable to develop equilibrium between inflammatory and anti-inflammatory compounds which may lead to the development of a persistent, low-grade inflammation and a blown up immune reactivity. As a result, people are more likely to develop autoimmune diseases, allergies, and psychiatric disorders. Also, an exaggerated inflammatory response is found to be a characteristic condition of patients suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The researchers claimed that the natural landscape offers healthful outcomes for the inhabitants. It promotes a speedy recovery from stress and mental fatigue. It offers a wide-ranging exposure to the beneficial microbes that help the natural immunity of the organism to grow strong.
Since the majority of the world’s population is located in the big cities that offer a narrow range of microbial exposure. So, the people there aren’t much exposed to the microbes that may pose beneficial effects on the organisms in various ways.
The researchers advised the people from urban areas to keep pet or animal rather than consuming foods high in probiotics. The lead author, Stefan Reber recommends people to follow rural practices for as long as possible, preferably during the upbringing of children because a wide range of microbial exposures may have many beneficial effects on them.
The team is hopeful to expand the study where women could participate too. However, a lot of research still needs to be done.
Böbel, Till S., Sascha B. Hackl, Dominik Langgartner, Marc N. Jarczok, Nicolas Rohleder, Graham A. Rook, Christopher A. Lowry, Harald Gündel, Christiane Waller, and Stefan O. Reber. “Less immune activation following social stress in rural vs. urban participants raised with regular or no animal contact, respectively.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences(2018): 201719866.
The complete experimental research is also available online. Click here to read it.