The epidemiology, healthcare and societal burden and costs of asthma in the UK and its member nations: analyses of standalone and linked national databases

BMC Med. 2016 Aug 29;14(1):113. doi: 10.1186/s12916-016-0657-8.


Background: There are a lack of reliable data on the epidemiology and associated burden and costs of asthma. We sought to provide the first UK-wide estimates of the epidemiology, healthcare utilisation and costs of asthma.

Methods: We obtained and analysed asthma-relevant data from 27 datasets: these comprised national health surveys for 2010-11, and routine administrative, health and social care datasets for 2011-12; 2011-12 costs were estimated in pounds sterling using economic modelling.

Results: The prevalence of asthma depended on the definition and data source used. The UK lifetime prevalence of patient-reported symptoms suggestive of asthma was 29.5 % (95 % CI, 27.7-31.3; n = 18.5 million (m) people) and 15.6 % (14.3-16.9, n = 9.8 m) for patient-reported clinician-diagnosed asthma. The annual prevalence of patient-reported clinician-diagnosed-and-treated asthma was 9.6 % (8.9-10.3, n = 6.0 m) and of clinician-reported, diagnosed-and-treated asthma 5.7 % (5.7-5.7; n = 3.6 m). Asthma resulted in at least 6.3 m primary care consultations, 93,000 hospital in-patient episodes, 1800 intensive-care unit episodes and 36,800 disability living allowance claims. The costs of asthma were estimated at least £1.1 billion: 74 % of these costs were for provision of primary care services (60 % prescribing, 14 % consultations), 13 % for disability claims, and 12 % for hospital care. There were 1160 asthma deaths.

Conclusions: Asthma is very common and is responsible for considerable morbidity, healthcare utilisation and financial costs to the UK public sector. Greater policy focus on primary care provision is needed to reduce the risk of asthma exacerbations, hospitalisations and deaths, and reduce costs.

Keywords: Asthma; Burden; Cost; Epidemiology; UK.

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / economics*
  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Health Care Costs / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology