Who gets asthma?

11% of the Australian population have asthma.

Around 2.5 million Australians (11% of the total population) have asthma, based on self-reported data from the 2014–15 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) National Health Survey (NHS).

Prevalence by age and sex

Based on the 2014–15 AHS, among those aged 0–14, asthma was more common in males, but among those aged 15 and over, asthma was more common in females (Figure 1). This change in prevalence for males and females after adolescence is likely due to a complex interaction between changing airway size and hormonal changes that occur during adolescent development. This change in prevalence for males and females after adolescence is likely due to hormonal changes during adolescent development and differences in environmental exposures [4].

Figure 1: Prevalence of asthma, by age and sex, 2014–15

The vertical bar chart shows the prevalence of asthma varied across age groups in 2014–15. Rates were highest at age 0–14 for males (12%25) and 45–59 (14%25) for females. From age group 15–29 onwards, females had consistently higher rates than males.

Note: Includes self-reported doctor-diagnosed current and long-term asthma.

Source: AIHW analysis of ABS Microdata, National Health Survey (NHS) 2014–15 (Data table).

Prevalence by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status

In 2012–13, 18% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians had asthma (an estimated 111,900 people), with a higher rate among females (20%) compared with males (15%).

The prevalence of asthma was almost twice as high among Indigenous Australians compared with non-Indigenous Australians (a rate ratio of 1.9) after adjusting for difference in age structure [2].

The difference in asthma prevalence between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians exists across all age groups, but is more marked for older adults (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Prevalence of asthma, by age and Indigenous status, 2012–13

The vertical bar chart shows that in 2012–13 Indigenous Australians had higher rates of asthma than non-Indigenous Australians across all age groups. Rates remained fairly steady for non-Indigenous Australians (at around 10%25), but increased with age for Indigenous Australians, peaking at 22%25 at age 55 and over.

Source: ABS Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (AATSIHS) 2012–13: First results, Table 6 (Data table).

Inequalities

The rate of asthma varies by remoteness and socioeconomic area. For men this variation is not significant. However, in 2014–15, the prevalence of asthma in women was:

  • higher in Outer regional and Remote areas (15%) compared with Major cities (11%)
  • higher for those in the lowest socioeconomic group (15%) compared with those in the highest group (10%).

Figure 3: Prevalence of asthma, by remoteness and socioeconomic group, 2014–15

The horizontal bar chart shows that rates of asthma varied by remoteness and socioeconomic area in 2014–15. Asthma among women increased with increasing remoteness (11%25 in Major cities to 16%25 in Outer regional/Remote areas), however men in Outer regional/Remote areas had the lowest rates of asthma among all men (9%25). Rates of asthma decreased with increasing socioeconomic group for women (15%25 in Group 1 to 10%25 in Group 5), but rates for men were highly varied across the groups.

Notes

  1. Age-standardised to the 2001 Australian Standard Population.
  2. Please see data table for information on remoteness and socioeconomic group classifications.

Source: AIHW analysis of ABS Microdata, NHS 2014–15 (Data table).

References

  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2011. Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS): Volume 5 - Remoteness Structure. ABS Cat. no. 1270.0.55.005. Canberra ABS.
  2. ABS 2013. Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey: First Results, Australia, 2012-13. ABS Cat. no. 4727.0.55.001. Canberra: ABS.
  3. ABS 2016. National Health Survey: First Results, 2014–15. ABS Cat no. 4364.0.55.001. Canberra: ABS.
  4. Almqvist C, Worm M, Leyaert B 2008. Impact of gender on asthma in childhood and adolescence: a GA2LEN review. Allergy 63:47–57.