Impact

Deaths

How many people die from asthma?

Death from asthma is uncommon and effective management can reduce the risk even further. In 2018, there were 389 deaths due to asthma in Australia (0.2% of all deaths), which corresponds to a mortality rate of 1.3 per 100,000 population. The statistics presented in this section relate to deaths where asthma was listed as the underlying cause of death.

During the past decade, the overall trend of death due to asthma has decreased from 1.7 deaths per 100,000 population in 2009 and 2010, to 1.3 deaths per 100,000 population in 2018.

Attribution of death due to asthma is more certain among those aged 5–34, thus this age group is commonly used for examining time trends. There has been little change in the rate of mortality due to asthma in this age group over the last 10 years, with the rate ranging from 0.2 to 0.4 per 100,000 population.

For information on long-term trends, see General Record of Incidence of Mortality (GRIM) books. For more information on how deaths are registered, coded and updated, see Deaths data.

Figure 1: Age-standardised death rate due to asthma, by sex, 2009–2018

The line chart shows the trends of death due to asthma from 2009 to 2018. During the past decade, the overall trend of death due to asthma has decreased from 1.7 deaths per 100,000 population in 2009 and 2010, to 1.3 deaths per 100,000 population in 2018.

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Higher death rate from asthma in certain population groups

Certain population groups have a higher mortality rate due to asthma. Asthma mortality rates increased with increasing remoteness of residence. Mortality rates due to asthma were higher among people residing in Outer regional (1.6 per 100,000 population) and Remote and very remote areas (1.9 per 100,000 population) than in Major cities and Inner Regional areas (1.2 and 1.4 per 100,000 population, respectively). Meanwhile, the mortality rate was higher among people residing in the lowest socioeconomic area (2.4 per 100,000 population) compared to those residing in the highest socioeconomic area (1.3 per 100,000 population) (AIHW: Poulos et al. 2014).

In addition, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience higher asthma mortality rates than non-Indigenous Australians. In the 5-year period from 2014–2018, 63 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people died from asthma, with a mortality rate of 1.8 per 100,000 population (based on five jurisdictions with adequate Indigenous identification (NSW, Qld, WA, SA and NT)). After adjusting for differences in age structure, the mortality rate of asthma among Indigenous Australians was 2.2 times as high as non-Indigenous Australians (3.4 compared with 1.5 per 100,000 population).

The mortality rate differences between these population subgroups may be due to differences in smoking rates, access to health services, or other social and environmental factors. Smoking rates are higher among people living in more remote areas, among people living in areas of lower socioeconomic status, and among Indigenous Australians (AIHW 2018).

Burden of disease

Burden of disease measures the gap between the ideal of living to old age in good health, and the current situation where healthy life is shortened or lost by illness, injury, disability and death (AIHW 2019a). It combines health loss from living with illness and injury (non-fatal burden, or years lived with disability, or YLD) and dying prematurely (fatal burden, or years of life lost, or YLL) to estimate total health loss (total burden, or disability-adjusted life years, or DALY). One DALY is one year of 'healthy life' lost due to illness and/or death.

What is the burden of disease due to asthma?

Asthma affects people of all ages and has a substantial impact on the community. In Australia, asthma accounted for 34% of the total burden of disease due to respiratory conditions and 2.5% of the total disease burden in 2015 (AIHW 2019a). Between 2003 and 2015, there was a 3.1% increase in the total disease burden from asthma. 

Asthma was the leading cause of total burden in children aged 5–14 years, contributing 14% of total burden for boys and 12% of total burden for girls in 2015 (AIHW 2019a).

However, most of the disease burden due to asthma consisted of non-fatal burden (94%) rather than fatal burden (6%) in 2015. Among children aged 0–14, asthma was the leading cause of non-fatal burden. Among people aged 15 and over, asthma still caused a substantial non-fatal burden but was ranked progressively lower with increasing age (AIHW 2019a).

In the younger age groups (ages 0–14), the rate of non-fatal burden (YLD) due to asthma was higher in males than females (Figure 2). The rate of fatal burden (YLL) was highest among those aged 75 and over for both males and females.

Figure 2: Burden of disease due to asthma, age-specific rate, by sex and age, 2015

The bar chart shows the DALY due to asthma in different age groups by sex in 2015. In younger age group (0–14), the DALY due to asthma was higher in boys than in girls. Meanwhile, in other older age groups (15 and over), the DALY due to asthma was higher in women than in men.

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Variation across population groups

The asthma disease burden varies across different population groups. The rate of total burden (DALY) due to asthma in Remote and very remote areas was 1.3 times as high as the rate in Major cities. Meanwhile, the rate of total burden (DALY) due to asthma in the lowest socioeconomic area was 1.8 times as high as the rate for the highest socioeconomic area. People living in Inner regional and Outer regional areas had a higher rate of fatal burden (YLL) than those living in Major cities and Remote and very remote areas (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Burden of disease due to asthma, age-standardised rate, by remoteness and socioeconomic area, 2015

The bar chart shows DALY due to asthma by remoteness in 2015. The DALY due to asthma was highest in Remote and very remote areas, and the DALY due to asthma in Major cities, Inner Regional and Outer Regional areas were similar.

Disease expenditure

How much does asthma cost the health system?

In 2015–16, asthma cost the Australian health system an estimated $770 million, representing 19% of disease expenditure on respiratory conditions and 0.7% of total disease expenditure (AIHW 2019b).

This expenditure consisted of:

  • $205 million for hospitals (27% of total expenditure on asthma)
  • $163 million for non-hospital medical services (21%)
  • $383 million for pharmaceuticals (50%)

Figure 4: Health expenditure on asthma, by area of expenditure and sex, 2015–16

The bar chart shows the health expenditure on asthma in 2015–16. In general, asthma cost the Australian health system an estimated $770 million. Among them, $205 million for hospitals, $163 million for non-hospital medical services, and $383 million for pharmaceuticals.