Reports & Statistic

Burden of Disease Due to Asthma in Australia 2003

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Burden of Disease Due to Asthma in Australia 2003

Authored by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

The report summarises the asthma-related findings of two key Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reports — The burden of disease and injury in Australia 2003 and The burden of disease and injury in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples 2003.

In 2003 asthma was the leading cause of burden of disease in Australian children, contributing 17.4% of total DALYs and the eleventh-leading contributor to the overall burden of disease in Australia, accounting for 2.4% of the total number of DALYs. 

Asthma also contributed a substantial proportion to the Indigenous health gap in the burden of non-communicable conditions. It is predicted that asthma will continue to rank as one of the major causes of disease burden in Australia for the next two decades, particularly among females.

Measurement of burden of disease 

The burden of disease was estimated by using disability-adjusted life years or DALYs to quantify the burden of asthma. One DALY represents one lost year of healthy life due to disability or premature death.

Around 61% of the total burden of asthma in the community is borne by children aged 0 to 14 years. For this age group asthma is more a burden for boys than for girls, but from age 15 onwards, women bear a heavier burden due to asthma.
Most of the impact of asthma is on physical functioning and on the ability to perform social roles, leading to lost years of healthy life, and sometimes, sadly, lost years of life.

The report also found that overall, in 2003:

  • the equivalent of 63,100 years of healthy life were lost due to asthma - 59,054 of these due to years lived with disability and 4,045 due to premature death.
  • among children, asthma contributed over 17% of total disability-adjusted life years. Anxiety and depression, the next highest contributor to disease burden in children, came in at just over 11%.
  • asthma was the eleventh-leading contributor to the overall burden of disease in Australia, accounting for more than 2% of the total number of disability-adjusted life years.
  • chronic respiratory disease, which includes asthma, was the fourth-leading contributor to the Indigenous health gap in the burden of non-communicable conditions. It accounted for 9% of the gap, behind cardiovascular disease (23%), diabetes (12%) and mental disorders (12%).

Using this information

This report provides an indication of opportunities for health gain and will help guide the formation of health policy in relation to asthma. For example, interventions to reduce the Indigenous health gap in chronic respiratory disease burden and to improve the uptake of the key elements of effective asthma management - namely, a written asthma action plan and regular use of medications that control the disease and prevent exacerbations - represent two strategies likely to lead to reduced burden of disease attributable to asthma.

The full report is available at AIHW Publications - Australian Institute of Health and Welfare: Australian Centre for Asthma Monitoring 2009. Burden of disease due to asthma in Australia 2003. Cat. no. ACM 16. Canberra: AIHW.