There are almost no cases of asthma among the Amish children, who often help out on the farm, and work closely with the soil and farmyard animals.
The Amish still use traditional farming methods—involving heavy, manual labour—while almost all farms today use industrial and mechanised processes.
Researchers from the University of Arizona compared the health and lifestyles of 30 Amish children, aged between seven and 14 years, with 30 children from the Hutterite community, another isolated religious group, but one that uses modern farming methods.
None of the Amish children had asthma while six of the Hutterites did, and blood markers for allergies were also far lower in the Amish children.
Tests in the children’s homes also revealed that the Amish were exposed to much higher levels of airborne mites and cockroaches, often from household pets, than were the Hutterites, who lived in cleaner environments.
Their findings mirror earlier studies that had found that asthma rates in Amish children was around 5 per cent and 21 per cent in the Hutterites, while allergy sensitivity was 7 per cent in the Amish and 33 per cent in the Hutterites.