Lessons from the villages as children in cities lose their health advantage

Lessons from the villages as children in cities lose their health advantage

Home - Education - Lessons from the villages as children in cities lose their health advantage
Village children

Living in a city offers various benefits, such as more employment opportunities and better access to healthcare. However, residing in a congested “concrete jungle” may no longer be considered advantageous for one’s health, especially concerning the growth and development of children and teenagers.

According to a  global analysis of over 71 million children, the advantages of city living for the healthy growth and development of children and adolescents are diminishing in many parts of the world. A consortium of over 1,500 researchers examined height and body mass index (BMI) data from children aged five to 19 living in cities and rural areas across 200 countries from 1990 to 2020. The conclusions of the study were published in the journal ‘Nature.

It has been revealed that children raised in cities did not develop as expected. Children in rural areas have caught up to their urban counterparts in terms of height and weight. Consequently, children growing up in rural areas are experiencing healthier development.

With urbanization continuing to drive changes in India, the health of children in cities has become a growing concern. While nutritional deficiencies and malnourishment are rapidly declining in rural areas, certain urban environments are erasing the benefits of improved access to healthcare and education in the city.

Contrasting city and village life: Understanding the impact on children’s health

City and village life offer contrasting environments, each with its unique impacts on children’s health. Each setting offers different experiences and challenges, significantly impacting children’s health and development. City life provides access to superior healthcare and educational facilities, while village life promotes a healthier environment and lifestyle. Let us go into details of it.

Read More: Have schools recovered from long-term damage to children’s well-being and productivity?

Living in a city

City life offers numerous resources for guidance, child education, complex socialization, and better school preparation. Children growing up in cities find it easier to engage in activities and programs offered by their schools due to the organized nature of city life. One of the main differences between children in cities and children in villages is the availability of options. City kids have abundant opportunities to pursue various hobbies, with the city bustling with events and access to modern technology. Each parent chooses what they believe is best for their child, regardless of whether it is beneficial or not. Socialization is crucial for children in places like parks, kindergartens, and birthday celebrations. Preschool children have a strong need to interact with their peers.

Conquer Exam Pressure: 5 Unexpected Solutions to Unplug the Panic

Village life

Children’s eyes and minds may not fully grasp the advantages of living in the countryside compared to growing up in the city. Before starting school, a child should play and enjoy the freedom of growing up. Growing up in the city often involves receiving constant instruction, whether it’s in kindergarten, the park, or through media exposure. The village environment stimulates each child’s creativity and curiosity in a variety of activities. The village is abundant in flora, but it also has flies and mosquitoes. Children can also learn about the benefits of silence and the sounds of nocturnal wildlife.

Cities and rural areas are catching up

In the 1990s, rural areas in India showed a significant Body Mass Index (BMI) disadvantage compared to urban areas. However, improvements in sanitation, nutrition, and healthcare have led successive generations of children and adolescents to narrow the rural-urban gap. This trend is observed in middle-income countries and emerging economies, where urban-rural height differences are becoming relatively small, similar to high-income countries.

In the 1990s, India had a significant BMI difference between urban and rural areas, with a 0.72 kg/m2 difference in females. However, subsequent cohorts of children and teenagers experienced a higher increase in BMI in rural areas than in urban areas, resulting in a moderate narrowing of the urban-rural gap.

In contrast to the rapid decline in malnutrition, stunted growth, and nutritional deficiencies in rural areas, India has seen a significant increase in height over the past 20 years, about 4 cm for both boys and girls. The height advantage in cities has slightly decreased for both genders.

Urban and rural areas in India differ significantly from each other, with some states exhibiting more pronounced differences. Co-author and diabetologist Dr. V Mohan suggests that socioeconomic progress varies across states. For example, in Kerala, the prevalence of diabetes, obesity, and dyslipidemia in rural areas does not significantly differ from that in urban areas. While urbanization has its benefits, there is also a significant socioeconomic gap, and city life is advantageous for those who are reasonably wealthy. Dr. Mohan also notes that living conditions in urban slums are often worse than in rural areas due to issues like open defecation, overcrowding, and unemployment.

Children living in urban slums face higher risks of contracting infectious diseases and are more likely to adopt unhealthy lifestyles, such as poor eating habits and lack of exercise. They lack sufficient space to play and often choose inexpensive junk food over nutritious options like beans, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. They are also exposed to higher pollution levels. Children growing up in cities may not enjoy the health and educational benefits that come with such an environment. According to Dr. V. Mohan, president of the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation and one of the Indian authors, children in cities often fall into one of two extremes: undernutrition or obesity.

Also Read: Sustainable School Infrastructure: Challenges and Solutions

Causes for Concern

India faces a worrying situation where children growing up in cities are not exhibiting the expected growth. The risks of being either undernourished or obese are increasing in urban environments, especially in city slums where children are exposed to poor sanitation, polluted air, and limited space for play. A 2021 ICMR-INDIAB study highlights even higher risks for rural-urban migrants. According to the study, the prevalence of diabetes was 14.7% among rural-urban migrants, 13.2% among urban residents, 12.7% among urban-rural residents, and 7.7% among rural residents. The loss of social networks and support in an unfamiliar environment contributes to their low levels of physical activity, compounded by increased consumption of junk food.

India is following the global trend, although metropolitan areas still have an advantage overall. “Living in an urban area still offers health benefits in India, although the effects vary by state. There may be advantages to living in rural locations due to lower pollution levels, smaller populations, and lower living expenses. For example, in a state like Kerala, healthcare and education systems are equally good in rural areas as in urban areas. However, the situation is worse in areas where similar urban systems have not yet reached rural areas,” explains Dr. V. Mohan, president of the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation and one of the Indian authors.


1. What is the difference between a village child and a city child?

A village child often grows up in an environment surrounded by greenery and open spaces, which encourages outdoor activities and physical play. This environment contributes to their physical health and builds a sense of community and simplicity. On the other hand, a city child is more exposed to an urban environment, characterized by technological advancements, diverse cultures, and advanced educational resources. However, city children might also face challenges such as pollution and a more sedentary lifestyle due to the indoor entertainment options. Consequently, while village children might have a closer bond with nature and community, city children often benefit from greater access to information, technology, and educational opportunities.

2. Why are kids in rural areas growing faster and taller?

Children in rural areas are often observed growing faster and taller than those in urban settings, likely due to various factors. Nutrition plays a significant role, as rural children frequently have access to fresh, unprocessed foods that are rich in essential growth nutrients. The rural environments offer more opportunities for physical activity, both through chores and recreational play, which stimulates growth hormones. The lower pollution levels and less crowded living conditions might also contribute to better overall health and development. Collectively, these factors create an environment for growth and greater physical development.

3. Is it better for children to be raised in a city or in a rural area?

Deciding whether children should be raised in a city or a rural area depends on various factors including family values, lifestyle preferences, and the specific needs of the child. Urban areas often provide greater access to educational resources, cultural activities, and better healthcare services. However, cities can also present challenges such as pollution, noise, and a fast-paced lifestyle that may not suit every child. However, rural areas offer a quieter, often safer environment with plenty of space and opportunity for outdoor activities, which can contribute to a child’s physical and mental health. But lack diversity in educational offerings and healthcare facilities. Ultimately, the best environment for raising a child should align with the child’s needs and family priorities.

4. What are the advantages of children growing up in the city?

Children growing up in the city enjoy several advantages:

  • Educational Opportunities: A wider range of educational institutions, including specialized schools and programs that provide diverse interests and abilities.
  • Cultural Exposure: Cities are vibrant hubs of cultural diversity, providing children with opportunities to experience various cultures, languages, and traditions.
  • Healthcare Facility: Urban areas generally have better healthcare facilities. Have access to advanced medical treatments which can be crucial for children with specific health needs.
  • Social Development: Children are exposed to a broad spectrum of people from different backgrounds and communities, encouraging a sense of tolerance and social awareness from a young age.
  • Public Transportation: Efficient public transit systems in cities enhance mobility and independence for older children and teenagers.
  • Career Opportunities: Exposure to various professions and encounters with professionals can inspire and motivate children, providing a clearer vision of potential career paths as they grow and mature.

5. What are the reasons for child mortality in rural areas?

Limited Access to Healthcare: Limited access to healthcare delays the diagnosis and treatment of diseases, contributing to higher mortality rates.

  • Poor Nutritional: Malnutrition is more prevalent in rural areas due to economic constraints, lack of awareness, and limited availability of diverse and nutritious food.
  • Inadequate Sanitation and Clean Water: Many rural areas lack proper sanitation facilities and access to clean drinking water, leading to the spread of waterborne diseases such as diarrhea and cholera, which are significant causes of death among young children.
  • High Rates of Infectious Diseases: The prevalence of infectious diseases like malaria, pneumonia, and tuberculosis is typically higher in rural settings, increased by environmental factors and inadequate healthcare.
    Poor Maternal Health Services: Complications during pregnancy and childbirth that are not properly managed can lead to higher infant mortality.


Leave A Comment

Latest Blogs

Most Viewed Blogs