Asthma in an urban population in Portugal: a prevalence study

BMC Public Health. 2011 May 19:11:347. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-11-347.


Background: The prevalence and incidence of asthma are believed to be increasing but research on the true incidence, prevalence and mortality from asthma has met methodological obstacles since it has been difficult to define and diagnose asthma in epidemiological terms. New and widely accepted diagnostic criteria for asthma present opportunities for progress in this field. Studies conducted in Portugal have estimated the disease prevalence between 3% and 15%. Available epidemiological data present a significant variability due to methodological obstacles.

Aim: To estimate the true prevalence of asthma by gender and age groups in the population of the area covered by one urban Health Centre in Portugal.

Method: An observational study was conducted between February and July 2009 at the Horizonte Family Health Unit in Matosinhos, Portugal. A random sample of 590 patients, stratified by age and gender was obtained from the practice database of registered patients. Data was collected using a patient questionnaire based on respiratory symptoms and the physician's best knowledge of the patient's asthma status. The prevalence of asthma was calculated by age and gender.

Results: Data were obtained from 576 patients (97.6% response rate). The mean age for patients with asthma was 27.0 years (95% CI: 20.95 to 33.16). This was lower than the mean age for non-asthmatics but the difference was not statistically significant. Asthma was diagnosed in 59 persons giving a prevalence of 10.24% (95% CI: 8.16 to 12.32). There was no statistically significant difference in the prevalence of asthma by gender.

Conclusion: The prevalence of asthma found in the present study was higher than that found in some studies, though lower than that found in other studies. Further studies in other regions of Portugal are required to confirm these findings.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Portugal / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Urban Population*
  • Young Adult