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The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) released two new reports on respiratory conditions today.

The first report, Asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other respiratory diseases in Australia, shows that in 2004-05 about 6 million Australians reported suffering from a chronic respiratory disease.

'Asthma specifically, affected over 2 million people - including 16% of Indigenous Australians,' said Dr Adrian Webster of the AIHW's Respiratory Conditions and Primary Care Unit.

Hayfever affected about 3.2 million Australians and about 1.8 million people were affected by chronic sinusitis. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the disease most closely associated with smoking, affected almost 600,000 Australians.

The report also shows that diseases of the respiratory system were the third most common underlying cause of death in 2006.

General practitioners managed respiratory problems, such as asthma, more than any other condition. Respiratory problems were managed during almost 20% of encounters with GPs.

A second report, Asthma among older people in Australia, released today, shows that most deaths from asthma occur among older people.

'Of the deaths due to asthma, 92% occurred among those aged 45 years and over, and the average age at death was 79 years,' Dr Webster said.

'The presence of other medical conditions often makes the management of asthma in older people more complex,' he said.

Many asthma deaths are associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchiectasis or acute respiratory infections.

Canberra, 20 May 2010

Further information: Adrian Webster, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1119, mob. 0407 915 851.

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1032.

Asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other respiratory diseases in Australia and Asthma among older people in Australia