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Health Devotional


Population Density and Disease

Tuesday, February 23, 2021
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My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest. Though hail flattens the forest and the city is leveled completely, how blessed you will be, sowing your seed by every stream, and letting your cattle and donkeys range free. Isa. 32:18-20, NIV.

Does population density affect health? That was the question raised by researchers at the Bureau of Cancer Epidemiology in New York.

Dr. Philip Nasco and his associates divided the state of New York (except New York City) into categories based on population density.

Their findings were startling: the more rural the area, the less cancer among the residents. The increased risk experienced by the urbanites was in the range of 20 percent to upward of 70 percent. Many types of cancer also increased in frequency. They included cancers of the esophagus, mouth, colon, stomach, liver, pancreas, voice box, lung, bladder, and brain.

The general nature of the study made it impossible to determine the cause of the difference in cancer rates.

The authors suggested that smoking habits may provide one possible explanation. Many smoking-related cancers take decades to develop, and 20 to 25 years earlier the urban areas studied had more smokers. The urbanites may now be experiencing the consequences of long-term smoking habits.

Work-related exposures, pollution, more stress, less exercise, and poorer food choices may also help to explain why city dwellers have more cancer.

Years ago God spoke through Ellen White of the health risks of city living. Although she mentioned risks from the physical environment, such as pollution, she also raised concerns about the health risks of social factors, such as crowding and "bustle and confusion" (Medical Ministry, pp. 308-311), that contribute to stress and certain diseases. Could this be part of the secret of "the rural advantage"?

God's ideal was that His people would "live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest" (Isa. 32:18, NIV). Sounds like healthy country living, doesn't it?

If you find yourself having a hard time hearing God's voice in the traffic, noise, concrete landscape, and rush of urban living, maybe it's time to accept the invitation Jesus gave centuries ago: "Come . . . to a quiet place and get some rest" (Mark 6:31, NIV).

How can I get some of the benefits of country living even if I believe the Lord has called me to minister in the city?

Used by permission of Health Ministries, North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists.

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