30.01.2016

Burden of Asthma

75% of asthma sufferers have another lung condition

Asthma affects 11% of the adult population (or 2 million people) and is one of the more prevalent lung/breathing conditions in Australia, third only to hay fever (26%) and snoring (19%). Yet these conditions don’t exist in a vacuum.

The latest findings from Roy Morgan Research reveal almost three quarters (74%) of people with asthma also suffer from at least one other lung or breathing condition.

Between October 2014 and September 2015, more than half (51%) of Aussie adults with asthma reported experiencing hay fever at some point in the previous 12 months, well above the population average. Almost one third (30%) of asthmatics reported that they also snored, while 13% came down with bronchitis in that time.

Prevalence of other breathing/lung conditions such as sleep apnoea (9%), respiratory problems (8%) and emphysema (3%) is also above average among people with asthma.

Who’s at risk?

According to Asthma Australia, more boys have childhood asthma than girls, but by adulthood, women with the condition outnumber men. Roy Morgan data bears this out, showing that a substantially higher proportion of women (13%) than men (9%) suffer from asthma.

Medical experts also agree that obesity increases a person’s risk of developing asthma, another point supported by latest findings. In fact, just over 15% of people with a Body Mass Index (BMI) classified as obese have the condition, suggesting that obesity is even more of a risk factor than smoking (just under 13% of smokers are asthmatic).

As it does for so many other health conditions, socio-economic status also appears to influence a person’s likelihood of having asthma. While 9% of people from the wealthy AB socio-economic quintile are affected by the condition, prevalence increases to 13% among the financially challenged FG quintile.

Michele Levine, CEO, Roy Morgan Research, says: “While experts cannot pinpoint one definitive cause for the condition, it is believed that both genetics and lifestyle factors play a role. Lifestyle factors become especially pertinent when we consider that asthma is more prevalent among socio-economically disadvantaged Australians.”

Research has long confirmed the correlation between wealth and wellbeing, with people from affluent circumstances benefitting from better access to health education, nutritious food and quality health care.

“Meanwhile, among more disadvantaged sectors of the population, there is a much higher incidence of obesity and smoking - both key risk factors for developing asthma. And so the vicious cycle continues,” said Mr Levine

“Bearing this in mind, it is crucial for health bodies and/or government agencies to raise awareness among these susceptible groups about how they can reduce their risk of asthma. Not only would this result in improved quality of life for many people (and save them the expense of regular medication), but it would potentially ease some of the burden of our already stretched healthcare system.”

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