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Eur J Epidemiol. 1998 Apr;14(3):239-45.

Is the prevalence of atopic diseases in East and West Germany already converging?

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GSF-Forschungszentrum für Umwelt und Gesundheit, Institut für Epidemiologie, Oberschleissheim, Germany. Joachim.Heinrich@GSF.DE


Studies comparing respiratory health of residents in the areas of former East and West Germany have shown higher rates of asthma and allergies in children and young adults in former West Germany. It has been speculated that some factors associated with western lifestyle may be related to higher rates of atopic diseases among residents of former West Germany. We examined if the prevalence rates of self-reported asthma and nasal allergies in adults converged between the areas of former East and West Germany five years after re-unification. During the years 1990-1992 and 1994-1995 two independently drawn random samples of more than 3,000 subjects between the ages of 20 to 44 years answered a screening questionnaire of the European Community Respiratory Health Survey in Erfurt (East Germany) and in Hamburg (West Germany). The prevalence rates of asthma attacks, asthma medication use, allergic rhinitis, and wheezing remained stable in Hamburg but increased significantly in Erfurt approaching those of Hamburg. The data indicate that there is a tendency for the prevalence rates of self-reported allergic rhinitis and asthma-related respiratory symptoms in the eastern part of Germany to increase to West-German levels. It is not yet clear if this is due to a true increase in morbidity or only to a higher awareness for these diseases among doctors and the public.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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