Asthma Death Rate Plummeting, Study Says

A new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has found that the death rate from asthma in Australia has fallen by almost 70 per cent since the 1980s.

The report on asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Mortality from Asthma and COPD in Australia, says that while the United States and the United Kingdom report similar asthma mortality rates to Australia for people aged five to 34, rates are lower in Poland, Italy, Japan, Germany and France.
Spokesperson for AIHW’s Australian Centre for Airways Disease Monitoring (ACAM), Guy Marks said that the asthma mortality rate in Australia had fluctuated over the last century, with peaks observed in the late 1950s, mid-1960s and late 1980s.

“In recent years, the asthma mortality rate has declined substantially, but remains relatively high on an international scale at 1.5 per 100,000 population,” Marks said.

“The report examines asthma and COPD mortality trends over time, seasonal variation, and variation by age, sex, remoteness, Indigenous status, country of birth and socioeconomic disadvantage.”

Marks said that while asthma and COPD were both chronic lung diseases, COPD mainly affected older people, while asthma affected people of all ages.

In Australia in 2011, asthma was the underlying cause of 378 deaths, or 0.3 per cent of all deaths in Australia.

In the same year, COPD was the underlying cause of 5,767 deaths among people aged 55 and over (102 per 100,000 people aged 55 and over), or 4.4 per cent of all deaths in that age group.

“Our report also shows that COPD is a leading cause of death in Australia and internationally, and many deaths due to both asthma and COPD are potentially preventable,” Marks said.

According to the report, death rates due to asthma increase with age in both males and females, but are higher in women than men for those aged 35 and over. Deaths due to asthma peak in late winter for those aged 65 and over.