Asthma morbidity in Australia: an epidemiological study

Med J Aust. 1992 Jun 15;156(12):827-31. doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.1992.tb136992.x.


Objective: To examine the prevalence and management of asthma in adults and children in a population sample in eastern Australia.

Setting: A random sample of children from 33 primary schools in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and the Upper Hunter Valley (New South Wales), and their parents.

Design: A cross-sectional analytic survey of 8753 primary school children aged between 5 and 12 years, and their parents (n = 13,945 adults). Asthma prevalence and management practices were determined by parental responses to a questionnaire, and spirometry was performed in children with "probable asthma".

Results: Of 8753 children whose parents responded, the prevalence of current wheeze was 19.5% and diagnosed asthma was 17.1%. Of the children with "probable asthma", 30% had their lung function measured in the previous year, and 6% possessed both a peak flow meter and an action plan for their asthma. Undertreatment was likely, as preventive asthma medications (inhaled corticosteroids or sodium cromoglycate) were used regularly by only 25.5% of these children and by 44.3% of children who had asthma symptoms more than twice per week. Children with the diagnosis of asthma reported higher rates of preventive medication use and ventilatory function measurement than children with frequent symptoms without the diagnosis. In the 13,945 adults, the reported prevalence of asthma was 7%, of whom 39% were using preventive medications, 34% had their ventilatory function assessed in the previous year, and 7% had both a peak flow meter and an asthma action plan.

Conclusions: The study illustrated the gap between the current level of asthma management in the community and the standards set by the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand. Undertreatment and suboptimal management of asthma remain important problems in Australia.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use
  • Adult
  • Asthma / diagnosis
  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Asthma / prevention & control
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Bronchodilator Agents / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Cromolyn Sodium / therapeutic use
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Pulmonary Ventilation
  • Spirometry
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Theophylline / therapeutic use


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Bronchodilator Agents
  • Theophylline
  • Cromolyn Sodium