Ireland is now ranked among the top four countries in the world with the highest prevalence rates for asthma. The Asthma Society of Ireland has estimated that 274,000 people suffer from asthma in Ireland. Asthma affects at least 1 in 7 Irish children and 1 in 20 adults.
The first major study to investigate the impact of asthma in Irish households is currently being undertaken. The study, involving 5,000 households, is a collaboration between the Asthma Society of Ireland and Allen & Hanburys and is an Irish extension of the AIRE study – Asthma Insights and Realities in Europe – already conducted in seven EU countries. A preliminary audit has revealed a huge impact on quality of life. Of those surveyed:
55% of patients are awakened at night by asthma symptoms.
73% experienced some limitation in their normal activities due to asthma.
21% felt limited in what they could do.
70% experienced asthma symptoms as a result of being exposed to cigarette smoke.
Other findings of the preliminary audit included:
In adults, almost three working days a year are lost to asthma. This represents a cost to the Irish economy of Euro 16.6 million, based on the average industrial wage.
Children aged between 5 and 11 miss on average three and a half days of school a year because of their asthma, and teenagers aged 12 to 16 miss over two days a year.
79% of the children did not have their illness under control.
The UK has one of the highest prevalence rates for asthma in the world, along with New Zealand, Australia, and Ireland. The Asthma Audit by the National Asthma Campaign provided a higher estimate of the number of people suffering from asthma in the UK than ever before. The Audit estimated that 5.1 million people – 1 in 13 adults and 1 in 8 children – are currently being treated for asthma. The Campaign’s previous audit estimated the figure at 3.4 million. Nobody knows for sure why asthma is becoming more common, but it is thought to be due to a complex combination of genetic and environmental factors. Serious or life-threatening asthma results in 74,000 emergency hospital admissions each year. Currently, 1,500 people die from asthma each year, over a third of which are people under the age of 65.
Other statistics and findings from the Asthma Audit included:
GP’s in the UK saw over 18,000 cases relating to new asthma attacks each week.
The number of new cases of asthma each year is now three to four times higher in adults and six times higher in children than it was 25 years ago.
Many asthmatics do not receive adequate information or advice when asthma is first diagnosed. Very few asthmatics have a written self-management plan explaining when to take medication (6%) or what to do if asthma worsens (3%).
Of 56 countries surveyed, the UK has the fifth highest prevalence rate (20.7%) for asthma in 13 to 14-year-olds.
Asthma attacks now cost the UK an estimated £1.2 billion in lost productivity, £850 million in NHS treatment and a further £161 million in social security costs.
The average cost of an acute asthma attack needing an urgent GP appointment is £381.
Over 18 million working days are lost to asthma each year.
The Asthma Audit by the National Asthma Campaign was an audit of children’s asthma in the UK. The findings included:
An estimated 1.4 million children in the UK are receiving treatment for asthma.
Out of 56 countries worldwide surveyed, the UK had the highest prevalence of severe wheezing amongst children aged 13-14 years.
Respiratory illnesses are almost three times more widespread than any other long-term childhood disease in the UK.
For every 100,000 patients in a primary care organization, it is estimated that there will be almost 4,000 children diagnosed with asthma, with half of these visiting their GP at least once a year and 60 emergency hospital admissions each year.
The annual cost to the NHS of diagnosed asthma in childhood is estimated at £254 million.
The estimated annual cost of treating a child with asthma is £181, which is higher than the cost of £162 per adult.
Both wheeze and diagnosed asthma are more common in boys than in girls. However, the rate of decline is higher in males than females, leading to a higher prevalence of diagnosed asthma in women later in adult life than in men.
Respiratory disease is the most common reason for GP consultations in children, accounting for a third of all childhood consultations.
(3) AIRE study
The UK took part in the AIRE study – Asthma Insights and Realities in Europe. Four hundred interviews with eligible asthma sufferers were undertaken in each country including the UK. The AIRE study described the current state of patients knowledge, their attitudes, and behavior towards asthma. The survey indicated that the current level of asthma control in Western Europe, including the UK, falls far short of guideline recommendations for long-term management.
The AIRE results for the UK included:
Both 8% of adults and 8% of children had had an emergency hospital visit for asthma in the past year.
20% of adults and 28% of children had unscheduled emergency visits in the last year because of asthma.
49% of patients felt that asthma was limiting their activity levels.
43% of patients had experienced asthma symptoms during exercise or physical exertion in the past four weeks.
28% of patients had experienced sleep disruptions at least once a week over the last four weeks.
16% of adults and 38% of children had lost work/school days in the past year due to asthma.
Only 41% of patients were following their doctor’s advice fully.
84% of patients had never filled out a health assessment form.
Only 31% of patients had had a lung function test at least once in their lifetime.
Only 9% of patients had a written action plan for the management of their asthma.
64% of patients had not been shown how to use an inhaler in the past year.
26% of patients believed they had moderate or severe asthma, whereas 36% of patients demonstrated symptoms of moderate to severe asthma.
34% of patients were unaware that inflammation was the underlying condition of asthma.
63% of patients believed that only symptoms can be treated rather than the condition.
26% of patients were currently taking prescribed inhaled corticosteroids.
92% of patients perceived asthma to be increasing in the United Kingdom.
72% of patients believed that there is a strong need for better education of patients.