Is the prevalence of asthma declining? Systematic review of epidemiological studies

Allergy. 2010 Feb;65(2):152-67. doi: 10.1111/j.1398-9995.2009.02244.x. Epub 2009 Nov 12.


Asthma prevalence has increased very considerably in recent decades such that it is now one of the commonest chronic disorders in the world. Recent evidence from epidemiological studies, however, suggests that the prevalence of asthma may now be declining in many parts of the world, which, if true is important for health service planning and also because this offers the possibility of generating and testing new aetiological hypotheses. Our objective was to determine whether the prevalence of asthma is declining worldwide. We undertook a systematic search of EMBASE, Medline, Web of Science and Google Scholar, for high quality reports of cohort studies, repeat cross-sectional studies and analyses of routine healthcare datasets to examine international trends in asthma prevalence in children and adults for the period 1990-2008. There were 48 full reports of studies that satisfied our inclusion criteria. The large volume of data identified clearly indicate that there are, at present, no overall signs of a declining trend in asthma prevalence; on the contrary, asthma prevalence is in many parts of the world still increasing. The reductions in emergency healthcare utilization being reported in some economically developed countries most probably reflect improvements in quality of care. There remain major gaps in the literature on asthma trends in relation to Africa and parts of Asia. There is no overall global downward trend in the prevalence of asthma. Healthcare planners will for the foreseeable future, therefore, need to continue with high levels of anticipated expenditure in relation to provision of asthma care.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Global Health*
  • Humans
  • Prevalence