Australians with asthma also more vulnerable to other respiratory conditions

Affecting 11% of the adult population (or 2 million people), asthma is one of the more prevalent lung/breathing conditions in Australia, third only to hay fever (26%) and snoring (19%). Yet these conditions don’t exist in a vacuum – as the latest findings from Roy Morgan Research reveal, almost three-quarters (74%) of people with asthma also suffer from at least one other lung/breathing condition.

Between October 2014 and September 2015, more than half (51%) of Aussie adults with asthma reported experiencing hay fever at some point in the previous 12 months, well above the population average. Almost one-third (30%) of asthmatics reported that they also snored, while 13% came down with bronchitis in that time.

Prevalence of other breathing / lung conditions such as sleep ap-noea (9%), respiratory problems (8%) and emphysema (3%) is also above average among people with asthma.

Incidence of lung/breathing conditions: people with asthma vs population average
Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), December 2014 – February 2015 (n=3,687).

Asthma: who’s at risk?

According to Asthma Australia, more boys have childhood asthma than girls, but by adulthood, women with the condition out-number men. Our data bears this out, showing that a substantially higher proportion of women (13%) than men (9%) suffer from asthma.

Medical experts also agree that obesity increases a person’s risk of developing asthma, another point supported by our latest findings. In fact, just over 15% of people with a Body Mass Index (BMI) classified as obese have the condition, suggesting that obesity is even more of a risk factor than smoking (just under 13% of smokers are asthmatic).

As it does for so many other health conditions, socio-economic status also appears to influence a person’s likelihood of having asthma. While 9% of people from the wealthy AB socio-economic quintile* are affected by the con-dition, prevalence increases to 13% among the financially challenged FG quintile.

Michele Levine, CEO, Roy Morgan Research, says:

“In an average 12-month period, more than one in every 10 Australian adults suffers from asthma, making it one of the country’s more widespread lung/ breathing ailments. As if this were not enough, asthmatics are often affected by other respiratory con-ditions, compounding the problem.

“While experts cannot pinpoint one definitive cause for the condition, it is believed that both genetics and lifestyle factors play a role. Lifestyle factors become especially pertinent when we consider that asthma is more prevalent among socio-econo-mically disadvantaged Australians. Roy Morgan data has long confirmed the correlation between wealth and wellbeing, with people from affluent circumstances benefitting from better access to health education, nutritious food and quality health care. Meanwhile, among more disadvantaged sectors of the population, there is a much higher incidence of obesity and smoking — both key risk factors for developing asthma. And so the vicious cycle continues.

“Bearing this in mind, it is crucial for health bodies and/or govern-ment agencies to raise awareness among these susceptible groups about how they can reduce their risk of asthma. Not only would this result in improved quality of life for many people (and save them the expense of regular medication), but it would potentially ease some of the burden of our already stretched healthcare system.”

NB: A note on socio-economic quintiles: Roy Morgan Single Source collects thousands of data points from each survey respondent, allowing us to segment the Australian population in many ways. Socio-economic quintiles segment the population based on education, income and occupation, with AB being the top-scoring quintile and FG being the lowest.

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