The furniture in your house can have a huge impact on the environment, and a new study suggests that it’s the people who live there who could be impacted by the spread of outdoor furniture.
Researchers at the University of Michigan found that people who lived in neighborhoods with more outdoor furniture were 50 percent more likely to have asthma and 50 percent less likely to live in a neighborhood with outdoor furniture than those who lived with less.
The findings, published this week in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, suggest that it may not be the furniture itself that is harmful to the environment — rather, it’s how much furniture people are using to live outdoors that is causing the problem.
According to the researchers, the problem starts with people’s expectations of what outdoor furniture looks like, the kinds of furniture they want, and whether they want a certain kind of furniture to be installed.
While indoor furniture may be seen as a healthier option for people living in urban areas, the study also found that outdoor furniture was not associated with healthier living environments.
Instead, the outdoor furniture seemed to be associated with a higher prevalence of asthma, which in turn was associated with more asthma-related hospitalizations and hospitalizations for other health conditions, such as heart disease, stroke and cancer.
The study suggests, for example, that outdoor dining chairs may not necessarily be the best choice for people who like to sit and eat outdoors, but may also be associated in many cases with higher levels of indoor respiratory diseases such as asthma and COPD.
The research also found outdoor furniture to cause higher levels for respiratory illness than indoor furniture, and that it was also associated with higher rates of asthma and other respiratory conditions, particularly COPD, compared with indoor furniture.
According the study, outdoor furniture is associated with asthma rates that were nearly five times higher than indoor and indoor furniture combined.
“It is difficult to know what to make of these findings given the potential confounders that may be present,” said lead author J. David Stoddart, a professor of occupational health sciences.
“In addition to outdoor furniture, we found that indoor furniture also may be associated to higher rates and potentially higher asthma rates,” Stoddarts added.
“We do not yet know if these associations are causal or merely the consequence of the exposure to outdoor living in these populations.”
This new study is important because it suggests that indoor living may not always be optimal for people, but that the furniture that people use to live outside may also have a detrimental effect on their health.
“Our study is the first to examine the association between outdoor furniture and respiratory illnesses in this population,” said Stoddard.
“This is a finding that needs to be explored further.”
The study, “How Outdoor Furniture Affects Health and the Environment: A Population-Based Study,” was published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
The researchers were led by J.J. Stoddars senior author and associate professor of physical education and occupational therapy at the Center for Occupational Health and Rehabilitation Research.