Author Affiliations: The Cardiovascular Research Institute and the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco.
Contempo Updates Section Editor: Alice T.
D. Hughes, MD, Fishbein Fellow.
The prevalence of asthma has increased sharply in the United States
and around the world in the past 30 years. In the United States, data from
the National Health Interview Survey show that the annual prevalence of asthma
increased from 3.1% in 1980 to 5.4% in 1994.1
A review of studies performed in 17 countries during the 1960s and repeated
in the 1990s confirms an international increase in asthma prevalence.2 Although the increasing prevalence of asthma is a
global phenomenon, the scope of the problem differs greatly among countries.
The International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood, which examined
the prevalence of asthma in 56 different countries in the 1990s, found that
prevalence ranged from 2% to 3% in Eastern Europe, Indonesia, Greece, Uzbekistan,
India, and Ethiopia to 20% in the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.3 The finding that affluent countries have higher asthma
prevalence rates than poor countries has prompted speculation about the effects
of affluence, modernization, or "western lifestyle" on risk factors for asthma.
Woodruff PG, Fahy JV. Asthma: Prevalence, Pathogenesis, and Prospects for Novel Therapies. JAMA. 2001;286(4):395-398. doi:10.1001/jama.286.4.395