Asthma death risk higher for better-off

Wealthier children and young adults could be more likely to die from asthma than less affluent people, according to a new study.


Research has found that asthma mortality is more common in richer parts of the country despite poverty being linked to a range of health problems.

Experts from St George’s University of London and the University of Edinburgh found the “unusual and unexpected pattern” after analysing asthma figures from around England.

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Their study, published in the journal Thorax, has led to calls for more research into how the condition is affected by economic status.

Dr Samantha Walker, director of research and policy at Asthma UK, said: “It is concerning and unexpected that younger people in England who are wealthy have a higher risk of dying from the condition than those who are poor.

“More research needs to be done to fully understand the relationship between someone’s socio-economic status and how their asthma might affect them.”

The research found that in England, there were 14,830 recorded asthma deaths between 2002 and 2015, including more than 1,400 among children and adults aged five to 44.

There were more than half a million emergency asthma admissions from 2001 to 2011 among patients aged five and 
older. In most age groups the rate of asthma deaths was generally higher as deprivation increased, apart from those aged five to 44, where researchers noted a “modest but significant decrease in deaths from asthma with increasing levels of relative deprivation”.

Among the findings of the study was that asthma sufferers in the West Midlands are more likely to die than patients in other parts of the country. Mortality rates in the region were about a third higher than the England average.

Meanwhile, emergency admissions for the condition, which affects more than five million people across the UK, were most common in the North-West.

The research found that among five to 44-year-olds, mortality was 19 per cent lower among the most deprived 20 per cent compared to the wealthiest 20 per cent.

The researchers said that affluent areas may have a higher prevalence of a form of asthma which can progress more rapidly and lead to death.

There may also be higher prevalence of allergies among richer people.

Despite falling numbers of asthma deaths, the UK still has among the highest global mortality rates in the young.