Background: Asthma mortality rates have increased in several industrialized countries during the past two decades. In Latin America, there have been reported only a few national studies of asthma mortality.
Objective: To determine asthma mortality rates in Colombia from 1979 to 1994.
Methods: Death certificates from the National Administrative Statistical Department of Colombia were collected and analyzed.
Results: For the entire population we found increasing rates of asthma mortality from 2.15 in 1979 to 3.3 in 1985 followed by a decrease to 1.6 in 1994. Overall, the trend has been to decrease, with a variation coefficient of 1.09% by year. Age-adjusted rates of death from asthma, based on the population distribution of 1973, showed the same decreasing trend. Deaths from asthma were more frequent in subjects older than 35 years as compared with those younger than 5 years of age or the age group ranging from 5 to 34 years. For the latter, rates of death increased from 0.32 in 1980 to 0.37 in 1988, and fell to 0.20 in 1991. From 1992 to 1994 rates for 5 to 34 years of age were higher than previously, increasing to 0.9 in 1992 and decreasing to 0.6 in 1994. There was no significant variation in death rates between men and women. Sixty-two percent of deaths from asthma occurred at home, 31% at hospitals, and 6.7% in other places. Most asthma deaths were in urban areas.
Conclusions: In contrast to that observed in industrialized countries, we found a decreasing trend in asthma mortality in Colombia. Rates of death from asthma, however, are still high in this country.