Results: Response rate was over 71%. Between 1990 and 2003, asthma prevalence increased significantly, doubling in females (from 7.3% in 1990 to 14.6% in 2003), with a smaller increase in males (from 7.8% to 9.4%). Asthma also increased in all age groups, but the largest relative increases occurred in people aged 55 years and older. Logistic regression analyses showed that obesity was a major predictive variable for every age group studied. The prevalence of asthma morbidity (waking at night and days lost from usual activities because of asthma) among those with asthma showed no significant changes between 1990 and 2003. Asthma action plans (introduced on a population basis in 1992) peaked in their distribution at 42% in 1994, and then declined to half that percentage in 2003. The increase in asthma prevalence occurred at the same time as increases in population prevalence of obesity (10.3% to 18.7%) and diabetes (3.1% to 6.9%), and decline in recent vigorous exercise (42.4% to 32.7%).
Conclusions: The increase in asthma prevalence over a decade was large, but concentrated among specific sex and age groups. The increase accompanied population increases in obesity and diabetes and a decline in vigorous exercise.
- 1. Woolcock AJ, Bastiampillai SA, Marks GB, Keena VA. The burden of asthma in Australia. Med J Aust 2001; 175: 141-145. <MJA full text>
- 2. Phelan PD, Robertson CF, Olinsky A. The Melbourne asthma study: 1964-69. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2002; 109: 189-194.
- 3. Woods RK, Walters EH, Wharton C, et al. The rising prevalence of asthma in young Melbourne adults is associated with improvement in treatment. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol 2001; 87: 117-123.
- 4. Peat JK, Gray EJ, Mellis CM, et al. Differences in airway responsiveness between children and adults living in the same environment: an epidemiological study in two regions of New South Wales. Eur Respir J 1994; 7: 1805-1813.
- 5. Peat JK, Haby M, Spijker J, et al. Prevalence of asthma in adults in Busselton, Western Australia. BMJ 1992; 305: 1326-1329.
- 6. Abramson M, Kutin J, Bowes G. The prevalence of asthma in Victorian adults. Aust N Z J Med 1992; 22: 358-363.
- 7. Arif AA, Delclos GL, Lee ES, et al. Prevalence and risk factors of asthma and wheezing among US adults: an analysis of the NHANES III data. Eur Respir J 2003; 21: 827-833.
- 8. Upton MN, McConnachie A, McSharry C, et al. Intergenerational 20 year trends in the prevalence of asthma and hay fever in adults: the Midspan family study surveys of parents and offspring. BMJ 2000; 321: 88-92.
- 9. De Marco R, Locatelli F, Sunyer J, et al. Differences in incidence of reported asthma related to age in men and woment. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2000; 162: 68-74.
- 10. Kotaneimi JT, Lundback B, Nieminen MM, et al. Increase in adults in Northern Finland – a report from the FinEsS study. Allergy 2001; 56: 169-174.
- 11. Magnus P, Jaakkola JJ. Secular trend in the occurrence of asthma among children and young adults: critical appraisal of repeated cross sectional surveys. BMJ 1997; 314: 1795-1799.
- 12. Wilson DH, Wakefield M, Taylor AW. The South Australian Health Omnibus Survey. Health Promotion J Aust 1992; 2: 47-49.
- 13. National Heart Foundation. Risk Factor Prevalence Survey No 3, 1989. Canberra: National Heart Foundation of Australia, 1990.
- 14. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Australian standard classification of occupations. 1st ed. Canberra: ABS, 1990. (Catalogue No. 1222.0.)
- 15. Chinn S, Rona RJ. Can the increase in body mass index explain the rising trend in asthma in children? Thorax 2001; 56: 845-850.
- 16. Beckett WS, Jacobs DR, Wu X, et al. Asthma is associated with weight gain in females but not males, independent of physical activity. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2001; 164: 2045-2050.
- 17. Brogger J, Bakke P, Eide GE, et al. Long term changes in adult asthma prevalence. Eur Respir J 2003; 21: 468-472.
- 18. Toren K, Brisman J, Jarvholm B. Asthma and asthma-like symptoms in adults assessed by questionnaires. Chest 1993; 104: 600-608.
- 19. King GG, Brown NJ, Diba C, et al. The effects of body weight on airway calibre. Eur Respir J 2005; 25: 896-901.
Publication of your online response is subject to the Medical Journal of Australia's editorial discretion. You will be notified by email within five working days should your response be accepted.