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Eur Respir J. 2010 Feb;35(2):273-8. doi: 10.1183/09031936.00194308. Epub 2009 Jul 30.

Changes in the prevalence of asthma in adults since 1966: the Busselton health study.

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Dept of Pulmonary Physiology/West Australian Sleep Disorders Research Institute, Level 5, G Block, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, Hospital Avenue, Nedlands, WA 6009, Australia.


Asthma prevalence has increased worldwide; although less so in developed countries recently. This study assessed changes in the prevalence of asthma and related symptoms in the Busselton community since 1966. Cross-sectional respiratory health surveys of Busselton adults were conducted in 1966, 1969, 1972, 1975, 1981, 1990 and 2005-2007. Logistic regression models were used to estimate prevalence rates of asthma, respiratory symptoms, smoking, airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR) and atopy and to make comparisons in 2005-2007 and previous survey years. Asthma was defined as ever having doctor-diagnosed asthma (DDA). The prevalence of DDA was around 6% from 1966 to 1975, 8% in 1981 and rose to 19% in 2005-2007. From 1981 to 2005-2007, smoking prevalence declined and obesity and atopy increased but changes in these variables explained only a small part of the increase in DDA. Wheeze and cough/phlegm increased but AHR, breathlessness and doctor-diagnosed bronchitis remained relatively stable over the same period. These observations indicate that the increase in DDA is partly explained by increased symptoms and atopy. The lack of changes in AHR and doctor-diagnosed bronchitis suggests that factors such as diagnostic transfer and increased awareness of asthma have also contributed to the rise in prevalence of DDA.

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