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Sample Topic: Asthma

Asthma : Last revised in December 2013

How common is asthma?

  • The most recent report by Asthma UK states that 5.2 million people in the UK have asthma [Asthma UK, 2006].
  • The prevalence of asthma has increased in most countries since the 1970s. Levels may have plateaued in some developed countries [Anderson, 2005; Rees, 2006].
  • The number of adults with asthma in the UK has increased by 400,000 since the last audit of UK asthma in 2001 [Asthma UK, 2006].
  • The proportion of adolescents aged 13–14 years reporting wheeze in the previous 12 months in Western Europe was 14.3%, and the proportion reporting severe asthma was 6.2%. Severe asthma was defined as more than four attacks of wheeze, or more than one attack of wheeze at night disturbing sleep, or more than one attack of wheeze affecting speech in the previous 12 months [Lai et al, 2009].
  • The proportion of children in whom asthma was diagnosed increased from 4% to 10% between 1964 and 1989 [Keeley and McKean, 2006]. A further study found a rise in the prevalence of asthmatic symptoms between 1988 and 2003 [Burr et al, 2006].
  • In contrast, self-reported symptoms of asthma in children 13–14 years of age decreased by about 20% in the UK between 1995 and 2002 [Anderson, 2005].
  • In early childhood, asthma is more common in boys than in girls, but by adulthood, the sex ratio is reversed. The mechanism for this is not clear [de Marco et al, 2000; Nicolai et al, 2003]. Approximately 60% of adults with asthma in the UK are women [Asthma UK, 2006].
  • More than 4.1 million GP consultations for asthma occur each year [Asthma UK, 2006].
  • Each year, a GP with 2000 patients will see approximately 85 people with asthma, and each of these will consult three times on average [McCormick et al, 1995].
  • About 2% of adults consult their GP annually with asthma [McCormick et al, 1995].
  • Occupational asthma may account for 9–15% of adult-onset asthma. It is reported to be the most common industrial lung disease in the developed world [SIGN and BTS, 2011].