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Contempo Updates
July 25, 2001

Asthma: Prevalence, Pathogenesis, and Prospects for Novel Therapies

Author Affiliations

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.

JAMA. 2001;286(4):395-398. doi:10.1001/jama.286.4.395

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.

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