Animals and rural envi­ron­ment – villa­gers more content and happier than city dwellers

Symbolbild: Mädchen, Hund (C) pixabay, @StephenCh

By MATTHIAS OLDORFF | A higher salary, a good job or a better educa­tion are not decisive for general life satis­fac­tion; much more important are social inte­gra­tion, a stress-redu­cing lower human density, ethnic homo­gen­eity and an envi­ron­ment close to nature, accor­ding to a Cana­dian study. When children grow up toge­ther with animals in the coun­try­side, this streng­thens their immune system and later reduces their suscep­ti­bi­lity to mental illness.


Accor­ding to a German-American study, men aged 20–40 who grew up in a rural envi­ron­ment with animals show fewer signs of chronic stress than those who grew up in a metro­po­litan envi­ron­ment without animals. After a chal­len­ging test and lecture, urba­nites had more evidence of a stress response such as a cellular immune response and inflamm­a­tory and anti-inflamm­a­tory markers. Inflamm­a­tory markers have been linked to later depres­sion and PTSD. Scien­tists suspect the cause to be a reduced enga­ge­ment of the child’s immune system with micro­bial stimuli. It has also been known for some time that growing up in a rural envi­ron­ment reduces suscep­ti­bi­lity to asthma and aller­gies.

Large study: Country Bump­kins more content than City Dwellers

In an analysis of more than 400,000 ques­ti­on­n­aires from commu­nity health services in Canada, rese­ar­chers from the Vancouver School of Econo­mics found large diffe­rences in life satis­fac­tion between rural commu­ni­ties and big cities. Rural resi­dents feel more connected to their social envi­ron­ment, live locally longer on average and have higher overall life satis­fac­tion. Fewer stran­gers live in their commu­nity, the popu­la­tion density is lower, and on average a smaller propor­tion of income has to be spent on housing.

„Biophilia“ or a life close to nature

Until the high Middle Ages, about 90% of people lived from agri­cul­ture, around 1800 this figure was still 75% in Germany, in 1900 it was still 38% and in 2020 it will be only 2%. Living in small, mana­geable commu­ni­ties toge­ther with animals was ther­e­fore the normal way of life until a few gene­ra­tions ago. We are actually not evolu­tio­na­rily adapted to large cities. The depen­dence of our mental health and good mood on plants and animals also shows that we can really only thrive in a near-natural envi­ron­ment.

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