Media Releases

New asthma death toll shows baby boomer women are more at risk

21 Oct 2018

Women with asthma aged between 55 and 64 years are being urged to take action to manage their condition as new data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) highlights they are at an increasing risk of dying from asthma.

In total, 441 asthma-related deaths were recorded in Australia in 2017, comprising 300 females and 141 males. Whilst the overall toll decreased by 14 from the previous year, the deaths of women aged between 55 and 64 years doubled(from 16 to 32), according to the National Asthma Council Australia.

Dr Jonathan Burdon AM, Chair of the National Asthma Council Australia and respiratory physician, said that whilst it was pleasing to see an overall drop in asthma deaths, the rising death figures for women in their fifties and sixties was most concerning.

“This is devastating for the families who have lost a loved one and highlights the urgent need for mid-life women to more proactively manage their condition,” he said.

“Women in this age group are often juggling a host of responsibilities from work to caring for children and ageing parents, and often put their own health last. It’s important that women prioritise time to effectively manage and actively monitor asthma symptoms, so their conditions do not get worse.”

Dr Burdon said there was not a definitive answer as to why mid-life women were more affected by asthma, but it was likely a culmination of factors.

“Women have slightly higher prevalence rates for asthma, but we don’t have conclusive evidence as to why women are dying from asthma at more than twice the rate of men. This is happening globally, and studies suggest this is due to diagnostic, biological, lifestyle, societal or environmental circumstances.”

Asthma deaths in Australia have more than halved over the years, from a peak of 964 deaths in 1989 to 441 in 2017. In 2017 there were far fewer deaths amongst older Australians, with a significant drop in deaths amongst both men and women aged 75 years and over and women aged 65 to 74 years.

Dr Burdon said that ongoing education efforts had played a role in reducing the toll, including the recent thunderstorm asthma prevention campaign in Victoria.

“The decrease in asthma deaths is due to the ongoing education of health care professionals, the community and patients on the latest scientific evidence in asthma management, including tools like the Australian Asthma Handbook, the national treatment guidelines for asthma.”


Earlier this year Australia’s National Asthma Strategy was released. Aimed at reducing the impact of asthma on individuals, the community and the economy it supports effective self-management practices and targets high risk groups.

Dr Burdon said that asthma deaths are largely preventable and people with asthma and their carers need to ensure that they take appropriate steps to manage their asthma. The National Asthma Council Australia advises the following actions:


·         Don’t ignore or dismiss breathing problems

·         See your doctor for regular asthma check-ups

·         Follow an up-to-date asthma action plan

·         Ask your pharmacist to show you exactly how to use your inhaler correctly

·         Tell your doctor and pharmacist about other medicines you are taking

·         Get your flu shot in winter (it’s free for people over 65)

·         Quit smoking and avoid other people’s tobacco smoke

·         Ensure those close to you know what asthma first aid steps to take.


In Australia, one in 10 adults and children have asthma. Around 3 out of 4 people with asthma also have allergies, such as pollen-related hay fever. The prevalence of asthma is around 9% for men and 13% for women.

For more information, visit the National Asthma Council Australia website


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


On October 21 - Julia Ren-Daumas

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Email: [email protected]



From October 22 - Lelde McCoy, The Reputation Group                                                                  

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