Australia's asthma rate 'one of world's highest'

24 November, 2014

There is a higher incidence of asthma in Australia than almost any other country in the world – including nations like China constantly battling with pollution problems, a new report has found.

As to why this is remains largely unknown, however Professor Guy Marks from the Woolcock Institute and co-author of the 2014 Global Asthma Report put it down to patients not being able to afford daily preventer medication.

An estimated one in 10 Australians are affected, with many more also suffering wheezing symptoms.

"If you have several people in your family on daily medication the cost is not trivial, particularly when you add it up over the whole year," Professor Marks said.

"There is evidence to suggest people who are not eligible to get it at the concession rate … use a lot less of the inhaled steroids, which is the preventer medication."

"It's clear that air pollution is responsible for a lot of morbidity, but it's not the whole story.

"There is no dominant theory, there are theories about diet, about hygiene, about the beneficial effects from early life microbial exposure, and then there's exposure to allergens."

Nearly 380 Australians died from asthma in 2011, according to latest figures from the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare.