Place of upbringing in early childhood as related to inflammatory bowel diseases in adulthood: A population-based cohort study in Northern Europe

Signe Timm*, Cecilie Svanes, Christer Janson, Torben Sigsgaard, Ane Johannessen, Thorarinn Gislason, Rain Jogi, Ernst Omenaas, Bertil Forsberg, Kjell Torén, Mathias Holm, Lennart Bråbäck, Vivi Schlünssen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Background: The two inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, has increased rapidly during the twentieth century, but the aetiology is still poorly understood. Impaired immunological competence due to decreasing biodiversity and altered microbial stimulation is a suggested explanation. Objective: Place of upbringing was used as a proxy for the level and diversity of microbial stimulation to investigate the effects on the prevalence of IBD in adulthood. Methods: Respiratory Health in Northern Europe (RHINE) III is a postal follow-up questionnaire of the European Community Respiratory Health Survey (ECRHS) cohorts established in 1989-1992. The study population was 10,864 subjects born 1945-1971 in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Estonia, who responded to questionnaires in 2000-2002 and 2010-2012. Data were analysed in logistic and Cox regression models taking age, sex, smoking and body mass index into consideration. Results: Being born and raised on a livestock farm the first 5 years of life was associated with a lower risk of IBD compared to city living in logistic (OR 0.54, 95 % CI 0.31; 0.94) and Cox regression models (HR 0.55, 95 % CI 0.31; 0.98). Random-effect meta-analysis did not identify geographical difference in this association. Furthermore, there was a significant trend comparing livestock farm living, village and city living (p < 0.01). Sub-analyses showed that the protective effect was only present among subjects born after 1952 (OR 0.25, 95 % CI 0.11; 0.61). Conclusion: This study suggests a protective effect from livestock farm living in early childhood on the occurrence of IBD in adulthood, however only among subjects born after 1952. We speculate that lower microbial diversity is an explanation for the findings.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Epidemiology
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)429-437
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Crohn's disease
  • Hygiene hypothesis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Microbial exposure
  • Rural/urban environments
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Prevalence
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Child, Preschool
  • Male
  • Urban Population
  • Europe/epidemiology
  • Rural Population
  • Adult
  • Crohn Disease/complications
  • Female
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Colitis, Ulcerative/complications
  • Risk Factors
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Logistic Models
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Health Surveys
  • Aged
  • Hygiene
  • Hygiene Hypothesis
  • Cohort Studies


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