Allergic rhinoconjunctivitis doubles the risk for incident asthma--results from a population study in Helsinki, Finland

Respir Med. 2011 Oct;105(10):1449-56. doi: 10.1016/j.rmed.2011.04.013. Epub 2011 May 20.


Objective: To examine the incidence of allergic rhinoconjunctivitis and asthma, and to assess allergic rhinoconjunctivitis as a risk factor for incident asthma, we performed a 11-year follow-up postal survey.

Methods: The original study population was a random population sample of 8000 inhabitants of Helsinki aged 20-69 years in 1996. Participants in the first postal questionnaire survey, 6062 subjects, were invited to this follow-up study, and provided 4302 (78%) answers out of 5484 traced subjects in 2007.

Results: Cumulative incidence of asthma from 1996 to 2007 was 4.0% corresponding to an annual incidence rate of 3.7/1000/year. After exclusion of those with asthma medication or physician-diagnosed chronic bronchitis or COPD at baseline in 1996, the cumulative incidence decreased to 3.5% (incidence rate 3.2/1000/year), and further to 2.7% (2.5/1000/year) when also those reporting recurrent wheeze or shortness of breath during the last year in 1996 were omitted from the population at risk. Remission of asthma occurred in 43 subjects and was 16.9% over 11 years. Cumulative 11-year incidence of allergic rhinoconjunctivitis was 16.9% corresponding to 16.8/1000/year, and cumulative remission was 18.1%. Incidence of allergic rhinoconjunctivitis was significantly lower among those who had lived in the countryside or on a farm during the first 5 years of life, but this was not true for asthma. In multivariate analysis, farm living during the first 5 years of life was protective for the development of allergic rhinoconjunctivitis, OR 0.75 (95%CI 0.57-0.99). Allergic rhinoconjunctivitis was a significant independent risk factor for incident asthma, OR 2.15 (95%CI 1.54-3.02). In the cohort, the prevalence of rhinoconjunctivitis increased from 38.0% in 1996 to 40.9% in 2007, physician-diagnosed asthma from 6.8% to 9.4%, while current smoking decreased from 31.3% to 23.3%.

Conclusion: Incidence of allergic rhinoconjunctivitis was higher than in earlier studies, while asthma incidence remained on similar level, both being significantly higher in women. Allergic rhinoconjunctivitis doubled the risk for incident asthma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asthma / complications*
  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Asthma / etiology
  • Asthma / physiopathology
  • Conjunctivitis, Allergic / complications
  • Conjunctivitis, Allergic / epidemiology*
  • Conjunctivitis, Allergic / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Perennial / complications
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Perennial / epidemiology*
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Perennial / physiopathology
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / epidemiology*
  • Smoking / physiopathology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult