Asthma in the elderly: risk factors and impact on physical function

Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2012 May;108(5):305-10. doi: 10.1016/j.anai.2012.02.022. Epub 2012 Mar 23.


Background: The incidence rate of asthma has increased in all age groups in the past 40 years. Asthma in older adults is underdiagnosed and undertreated, resulting in suboptimal asthma control.

Objective: The objectives of the study are to evaluate differences in host characteristics between older patients with asthma and persons who do not have asthma and how these differences impact overall quality of life.

Methods: Patients older than age 60 years were recruited from the general population for this case/control and nested cohort study. A complete medical history, physical examination, skin prick testing (SPT), spirometry, and exhaled nitric oxide (ENO) measurements were performed. Quality of life was assessed through the standardized SF-36v2 questionnaire. Quality of life scores, spirometry, ENO, and aeroallergen sensitization differences were compared between older patients with asthma and control patients.

Results: The mean age of the 77 patients evaluated was 68.7 ± 7.2 years, with 59 (77%) being female. A higher rate of SPT positivity was found in patients with asthma (88.9%) compared with controls (51.2%) (P = .007). The mean percent predicted forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) at baseline was lower in the asthma group (73.7 ± 21.9%) compared with controls (89.6 ± 19.1%) (P = .007). For quality of life assessed by the SF-36v2 questionnaire, the asthma group had worse general health, increased bodily pain, and worse overall physical health compared with controls (P = .02; .021; .01).

Conclusion: Older adults with asthma have a higher rate of allergic sensitization, decreased lung function, and significantly worse quality of life compared with controls.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Allergens / immunology
  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Asthma / immunology
  • Asthma / physiopathology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cohort Studies
  • Exhalation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nitric Oxide / analysis
  • Quality of Life*
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Perennial / diagnosis
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Perennial / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Skin Tests
  • Spirometry


  • Allergens
  • Nitric Oxide