ECARF Calls for Study on the Prevalence of Allergies in Germany

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the prevalence of allergies was significantly higher in West Germany than in East Germany.(1) A study conducted 20 years later demonstrates that the differences have decreased to within a few percentage points since reunification.(2)

The assimilation of allergy prevalence in the new federal states is considered by many researchers as a validation of the so-called hygiene hypothesis. They assume that the western lifestyle, with its emphasis on clean, germ-free living environments, promotes the development of allergies in childhood. (3)

No comprehensive explanation for the increase in allergies
However, the hygiene hypothesis alone does not provide sufficient explanation in research of the prevalence of allergies in modern industrialised countries. Genetic predisposition, environmental pollution, climate change along with the resulting changes in vegetation, and the globalisation of the food supply are additional considerations. There is currently no fundamental explanation of the causes behind the increase in allergies.

ECARF is calling for a baseline study on allergies in Germany
The European Centre for Allergy Research Foundation (ECARF) is appealing to politicians to provide additional funding for research on the causes of allergies. Only by achieving a precise understanding of the contributing factors can we reduce the prevalence of allergies in future generations. A long-term study with this objective can help improve medical treatment for allergy sufferers and their quality of life of over the long term.

  1. Hermann-Kunz E (1999) Häufigkeit allergischer Krankheiten in Ost- und Westdeutschland [Prevalence of allergic diseases in East and West Germany]. Gesundheitswesen 61 (Sonderheft 2):S100-S105
  2. Langen U, Schmitz R, Steppuhn H (2013) Häufigkeit allergischer Erkrankungen in Deutschland. Ergebnisse der Studie zur Gesundheit Erwachsener in Deutschland (DEGS1) [Prevalence of allergic diseases in Germany. Results of the German Health Interview and Examination Survey for Adults (DEGS1)]. Bundesgesundheitsbl – Gesundheitsforsch – Gesundheitsschutz 56(5/6):698-706
  3. Schmitz R, Atzpodien K, Schlaud M (2012) Prevalence and risk factors of atopic diseases in German children and adolescents. Pediatr Allergy Immunol 23(8):716-723