New report reveals asthma costs Australia $28bn a year

24 November 2015

CANBERRA: A new report that highlights the economic cost of asthma shows the condition has far-reaching financial impacts on the government, families and carers of people with asthma.  

Asthma affects 1 in 10 Australians - one of the highest rates in the world.

Launched today, The Hidden Cost of Asthma report by Deloitte Access Economics, details the financial burden of asthma including direct healthcare costs of $1.2bn and $24.7bn attributed to disability and premature death.

The report was commissioned by Asthma Australia and the National Asthma Council Australia in order to assess the scale of asthma’s economic impact.

“We have long known that the economic effects of asthma go beyond the direct cost to government. This report quantifies how asthma impacts more widely; on the community and throughout the lives of people with asthma and their carers,” said Mark Brooke, CEO of Asthma Australia.

The total cost of asthma in 2015 shown in the report is $27.9bn, which equates to $11,740 per person with asthma.

Asthma can be well controlled with the right treatment but survey results released earlier this year show nearly half1 of the 2.4 million Australians affected have poorly controlled asthma.

In The Hidden Cost of Asthma, productivity losses in 2015 are estimated to be $1.1bn.

Employers bore 47 percent of productivity losses ($526.7m), mainly due to costs associated with temporary absenteeism.

The report found that people with asthma are absent from work on average 2.1 days more per year than people without the condition. However, the workforce participation levels for people with asthma in Australia are the same as for those without asthma, showing asthma is not a barrier to workforce participation.

Absence from work was not limited to people with asthma; carers were also included in the report with an estimated $72.9m in lost wages for informal carers.

“In regard to absence from work, asthma is really no different to other chronic health conditions,” said Mr Brooke.

“Continuing investment in patient self-management is a priority to ensure that people with asthma lead fulfilling and productive work lives. Equally, employers need to understand that people with asthma, and in particular parents of children with asthma or any chronic illness, need support to manage work life balance.”

Asthma Australia and the National Asthma Council Australia say that the report shows preventative strategies are key in lightening the burden of asthma on the community and improving the lives of people with asthma.

“This report is an important tool in asthma, along with the national treatment guidelines for asthma, the Australian Asthma Handbook, and the draft National Asthma Strategy, recently submitted into the process for consideration by the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council.

Our challenge is to improve all aspects of asthma care involving general practitioners, practice nurses, pharmacists and, most importantly, people with asthma. Well-managed asthma involves taking medications as prescribed, achieving control of symptoms, avoiding unnecessary hospital and GP visits, and enjoying better quality of life. Investment in research to develop targeted, practical and effective interventions will help reduce the impact of asthma,” said Ms Kristine Whorlow, CEO of National Asthma Council Australia.



Media enquiries

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Annette Stenhouse 0416 861 732

The Hidden Cost of Asthma report is available via this link.



1 Reddel H, Sawyer S et al. (2015) ‘Asthma control in Australia: a cross-sectional web-based survey in a nationally representative population.’ Medical Journal Australia, 202 (9), p492-497

Last reviewed November 2015