Does Childhood Exposure to Biodiverse Greenspace Reduce the Risk of Developing Asthma?

31 Pages Posted: 15 Apr 2022

See all articles by Martin Holm Winnicki

Martin Holm Winnicki

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Robert R. Dunn

North Carolina State University

Matilde Winther-Jensen

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Tine Jess

Aalborg University - Center for Molecular Prediction of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (PREDICT)

Kristine Højgaard Allin

Aalborg University - Center for Molecular Prediction of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (PREDICT)

Hans Henrik Bruun

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Abstract

The prevalence of inflammatory diseases is increasing in populations throughout the industrialized world. An increasing proportion of human populations grow up and live in urban areas, probably with reduced exposure to diverse soil biotas and other biodiversity. Decreased exposure to microorganisms from natural environments, in particular in early childhood, has been hypothesized to hamper development of the human immune system and lead to increasing risks of inflammatory diseases, such as asthma.We investigated 40,249 Danish individuals born 1995-2015, spending their first two years of life in one of six contrasted municipalities (urban vs rural and low vs high Natural Capital Index). Percentage greenspace was assessed in a 2 km buffer around home addresses of individuals’. The Danish Biodiversity Map, charting occurrence density of red-listed animals, plants and macrofungi, was used as a proxy for multi-taxon biodiversity, including soil biodiversity.We found no evidence of decreasing risk of developing asthma with higher levels of biodiversity. In contrast, greenspace exposure was associated with higher risk of asthma. Exposure to farmland was also associated with elevated risk of developing asthma, even at relatively low agricultural landcover. In the subset of children growing up in highly urbanized settings, we found high exposures to urban greenspace to be associated with reduced risk of developing asthma.Our results lend no support to the hypothesis that early childhood exposure to biodiverse environments reduces the risk of acquiring inflammatory diseases later in life. However, access to urban greenspace, such as parks, which typically harbour low levels of biodiversity, seems to reduce asthma risk, potentially through exposure to common soil microbiota. Our results suggest that biodiversity conservation must be motivated with other arguments than human health benefits.

Keywords: asthmainflammatory diseasesbiodiversity hypothesishygiene hypothesisgreenspaceurban greenspace

Suggested Citation

Holm Winnicki, Martin and Dunn, Robert R. and Winther-Jensen, Matilde and Jess, Tine and Højgaard Allin, Kristine and Bruun, Hans Henrik, Does Childhood Exposure to Biodiverse Greenspace Reduce the Risk of Developing Asthma?. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4084675 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4084675

Martin Holm Winnicki

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

No Address Available

Robert R. Dunn

North Carolina State University ( email )

Hillsborough Street
Raleigh, NC 27695
United States

Matilde Winther-Jensen

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

No Address Available

Tine Jess

Aalborg University - Center for Molecular Prediction of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (PREDICT) ( email )

Copenhagen
Denmark

Kristine Højgaard Allin

Aalborg University - Center for Molecular Prediction of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (PREDICT) ( email )

Copenhagen
Denmark

Hans Henrik Bruun (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

No Address Available

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