The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has found that the prevalence of asthma in children and young adults have decreased over the past decade.


The Asthma in Australia 2011 report was launched by Professor Guy Marks, Director of the Australian Centre for Asthma Monitoring (ACAM) at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research in Sydney


The report has found the rate of asthma in people aged 5 to 34 has dropped by over a quarter, but remained stable in adults aged 35 and over.


The report also found that the rates of deaths from asthma have dropped by 45 per cent between 1997 and 2009.


"Despite these improvements, asthma prevalence and mortality rates in Australia remain high on an international scale," Professor Marks said. 


In 2007–08, the prevalence of asthma in Australia was estimated to be about one in ten— equivalent to about 2 million people.


"People with asthma also smoke at least as much as people without asthma, despite the known adverse effects," Professor Marks said.


Rates of hospitalisation for asthma among adults are higher in Indigenous people compared with other Australians. Also, people living in areas of lower socioeconomic status are more likely to be hospitalised for asthma than those living in areas of higher socioeconomic status and this gap has widened in recent years.


The report includes a focus chapter on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)— a serious long-term lung disease that mainly affects older people and is often difficult to distinguish from asthma. In Australia, smoking is the main cause of COPD.  Among people aged 55 years and over, deaths and hospitalisations are much more commonly caused by COPD than by asthma.


"However, the good news is that between 1997 and 2007, the death rate attributed to COPD among people aged 55 years and over decreased by 65%," Professor Marks said.


The report was prepared by the Australian Centre for Asthma Monitoring, a collaborating unit of the AIHW located at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research.