Researchers at the University of Helsinki in Finland have shown that an urban, indoor lifestyle leading to a lack of exposure to a natural environment may be a cause of an increase in the numbers of allergy and asthma cases. It would appear you need to get outside to prevent summer allergies and stress.
The group of Finnish scientists suggests that certain types of bacteria – known as microbiota – that are known to be beneficial to the human immune system are relatively lacking in urban areas compared with non-urban surroundings.
Ilkka Hanski, a co-author of the report, said: “There are microbes everywhere, including in the built environment, but the composition is different between natural environments and human-built areas.”
“The microbiota in natural environments is more beneficial for us.”
The team collected samples from 118 teenagers in eastern Finland, and found that those living on farms or near forests had more diverse bacteria on their skin, and also displayed lower allergen sensitivity.
Another recent study from the UK has also demonstrated that a lack of green spaces around people’s homes is linked with higher stress levels among people living in deprived urban areas, as measured by the levels of stress hormones in subjects’ saliva.
These studies support a concept known as ‘nature deficit disorder’, first described by US author Richard Louv. In line with this, the National Trust has also published a report stating that an increasing loss of contact with nature is proving detrimental to children’s health and education.
The great news is that spending time outdoors to prevent summer allergies is great for the physical and emotional wellbeing of the whole family, and doesn’t have to cost a penny. Find a local park or nature research and take bikes, balls or buckets for collecting sticks and acorns, and you are all set!