Media Releases

New asthma deaths’ data shows older women continue to be at highest risk

2 Nov 2017

Women aged 65 and over are urged to take better control of their asthma management as new data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reveals that women in this age group are nearly three times more likely to die from asthma than men of the same group (257 vs 90).

In 2016, 455 asthma-related deaths were recorded in Australia, comprising 312 females and 143 males. The overall figure increased from 421 deaths in 2015. People aged 75 and over made up two-thirds of the deaths (300 of 455). Compared to last year, there were 13 more deaths from asthma in New South Wales and 11 more deaths from asthma in Victoria, including those due to the epidemic thunderstorm asthma event on 21 November in Melbourne last year.

Dr Jonathan Burdon AM, Chair of the National Asthma Council Australia and respiratory physician, said the rising toll is a concern, especially for older women with asthma.

“The demographic statistics over the past few years have indicated that older women are consistently at the highest risk of dying from asthma. This could be due to a combination of lifestyle and contributing health factors. To combat this phenomenon, it’s imperative that women make sure their asthma is well managed and treated as they get older.”

Research has found that nearly 40 per cent of people with asthma only use reliever medicines, and a quarter of them have been forced to seek last-minute treatment for a dangerous flare-up in their condition.1

“People with asthma, particularly older women, need to focus on preventative treatments. Following an asthma action plan, which is reviewed each year, will help you stay well.

“If you experience worsening symptoms, it’s important to take quick action to reduce the risk of a potentially fatal asthma attack.”

Dr Burdon said innovations in asthma care, such as the National Asthma Council’s new Asthma Buddy mobile web site, will help Australians with asthma.

Like a phone app, the mobile-only website is an easy-to-use and take-anywhere asthma management tool available at

“It’s a convenient way of keeping your asthma action plan handy, knowing what daily asthma medication to take and getting advice on what you should do if your asthma is getting worse in response,” he said.

The National Asthma Council’s action tips for women with asthma are:

  • Don’t ignore or dismiss breathing problems
  • See your doctor for regular asthma check-ups
  • Follow an up-to-date asthma action plan
  • Take your asthma treatment as prescribed
  • Ask your pharmacist to show you exactly how to use your inhaler correctly
  • Tell your doctor and pharmacist about other medicines you are taking
  • Quit smoking and avoid other people’s tobacco smoke · Use Asthma Buddy to better manage your asthma -

In 2016 chronic lower respiratory diseases (5.1%) were the fifth leading cause of deaths in Australia (ABS). A significant proportion of asthma morbidity and its associated costs in Australia are preventable. 2

The launch of Asthma Buddy is funded by GSK Australia. The National Asthma Council retained editorial control.

For more information on asthma and allergies, visit the National Asthma Council’s website

For full report of asthma-related deaths by age, sex and state, visit National Asthma Council’s website.

Media enquiries

For further information, or to arrange an interview with a National Asthma Council Australia spokesperson, please contact:

Lelde McCoy – The Reputation Group

Tel: 03 96457755 

Mob: 0417362768 

Email: [email protected]

1 Reddel HK, Ampon RD, Sawyer SM, et al Risks associated with managing asthma without a preventer: urgent healthcare, poor asthma control and over-the-counter reliever use in a cross-sectional population survey. BMJ Open 2017;7: e016688. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2017-016688.

2 Reddel, H., Sawyer, S., Everett, P., Flood, P. and Peters, M. (2015). Asthma control in Australia: a cross-sectional web-based survey in a nationally representative population. The Medical Journal of Australia, 202(9), pp.492-496.