Effect of asthma on falling into poverty: the overlooked costs of illness

Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2015 May;114(5):374-8. doi: 10.1016/j.anai.2015.02.017. Epub 2015 Mar 26.


Background: Studies on the indirect costs of asthma have taken a narrow view of how the condition affects the living standards of patients by examining only the association with employment and income.

Objective: To build on the current cost-of-illness literature and identify whether having asthma is associated with an increased risk of poverty, thus giving a more complete picture of the costs of asthma to individuals and society.

Methods: Longitudinal analysis of the nationally representative Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australian survey to estimate the relative risk of income poverty, multidimensional poverty, and long-term multidimensional poverty between 2007 and 2012 and population attributable risk method to estimate the proportion of poverty between 2007 and 2012 directly attributable to asthma.

Results: No significant difference was found in the risk of falling into income poverty between those with and without asthma (P = .07). Having asthma increased the risk of falling into multidimensional poverty by 1.35 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.01-1.83) and the risk of falling into chronic multidimensional poverty by 2.22 (95% CI, 1.20-4.10). Between 2007 and 2012, a total of 5.2% of income poverty cases (95% CI, 5.1%-5.4%), 7.8% of multidimensional poverty cases (95% CI, 7.7%-8.0%), and 19.6% of chronic multidimensional poverty cases (95% CI, 19.2%-20.0%) can be attributed to asthma.

Conclusion: Asthma is associated with an increased risk of falling into poverty. This should be taken into consideration when considering the suitability of different treatment options for patients with asthma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / economics*
  • Asthma / epidemiology
  • Cost of Illness
  • Health Care Costs
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data*