Less asthma, but disadvantaged more likely to suffer

A report released today, on World Asthma Day, by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare says asthma, especially among children and young adults, is on the decline but notes that socioeconomic disparities are widening.

The report, Asthma in Australia: results from the 2004-05 National Health Survey, presents findings from the most recent National Health Survey and compares them to results from the previous survey conducted in 2001.

According to the report, just over two million Australians are estimated to suffer from asthma, but the proportion of Australians reporting asthma in 2004-05 (10.3%) was lower than in 2001 (11.6%).

Dr Guy Marks, of the Australian Centre for Asthma Monitoring, said the prevalence of asthma has fallen significantly among children and young adults since 2001.

'People with asthma rated their health better and reported fewer asthma-related days off work or study in 2004-05 than they did in 2001, although those with asthma still regarded their overall health as worse than those without asthma ' he said.

There was a higher prevalence of asthma among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians compared to other Australians.

People living in the more socioeconomically disadvantaged localities also had a higher prevalence of the disease.

'The gap in asthma prevalence between the most advantaged and most disadvantaged localities widened between the two surveys. The underlying causes of asthma are unknown but this widening gap is an issue of concern.' Dr Marks said.

Less than one quarter (23%) of people with asthma reported having a written asthma action plan. This was a substantial improvement over 2001 when just 17% of asthma suffers had one in place.

'Surprisingly, one quarter of adults with asthma reported that they were current smokers and 11% of children with asthma were exposed to passive smoke in their home,' Dr Marks said.

The Australian Centre for Asthma Monitoring is a collaborating unit of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, based at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research in Sydney and funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing through the National Asthma Management Program.

1 May 2007

Further information: Dr Guy Marks, ACAM, tel. 02 9515 8631 or mob. 0419 251 565.

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. 61 2 6244 1032.