Media Releases

Asthma deaths drop but experts say it should be zero

30 Nov 2022

Asthma deaths have dropped for the second year in a row according to new 2021 Australian Bureau of Statistics data released today by the National Asthma Council Australia.

The figures show that there were 351 asthma-related deaths recorded in 2021 in Australia, made up of 244 females and 107 males, down from 417 deaths (2020) and 427 deaths (2019). 

Respiratory Physician and National Asthma Council Australia spokesperson, Dr Jonathan Burdon, said while it is encouraging that there were 66 less deaths due to asthma in the past year, this was likely due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The drop is very likely due in part to large sections of the population being in lockdown during the year, as well as good hygiene including masks and social distancing that helped to limit infections such as the flu.

“Despite the drop, the sad truth is that most asthma deaths are preventable, so even 351 deaths is far too many.

“Asthma mortality rates in Australia are still high by international comparison, so this is not the time for complacency as we are all now circulating freely in the community along with infections and viruses including COVID-19,” said Dr Burdon.

Dr Burdon said that in order to get the asthma death rate down even further and stay down, people with asthma need to take proactive steps to reduce their risk.

“In Australia, one in four children and one in 10 adults live with asthma and the best protection is good day to day control of your asthma. That means using your preventer as prescribed and if you need to use your reliever (blue) puffer more than a few times a week, see your doctor for consideration for treatment with a preventer. There are also some newer treatments these days for some people with significant asthma related to allergy. 

“While there is currently no cure for asthma, good asthma control can prevent symptoms such as wheezing and breathlessness from occurring or progressing into a severe flare-up that could end in death,” he said.

The ABS statistics show that once again, women over 75 are still the most at risk, with almost half (46 per cent) of all asthma deaths coming from this age group. By comparison, asthma deaths for males over 75, the age group that also recorded the highest deaths for males, is only 16 per cent.

“We also see that deaths for women start to creep up as they age, so asthma deaths in women really start to rise from when they are in their mid-50’s which is extremely concerning.

“Women over 75 could be experiencing a time of their life when there could be huge changes in living circumstances, such as living alone after losing a partner, changes to routine after retirement, as well as the need to start taking other medications, so the focus on asthma risk can lessen.

“The National Asthma Council Australia is urging all Australians with asthma to check in with your doctor to review your Written Asthma Action Plan, make sure you are using your inhaler properly and that you know what to do for an asthma flare up or acute attack or in any asthma emergency. “It is also important that anyone with asthma is especially careful during thunderstorm warnings and thunderstorms,” said Dr Burdon.

Link to 2021 mortality infographic here.

LocationFemale DeathsMale DeathsAll 

*26 deaths outside QLD, NSW, VIC, SA, WA (no state stats done for Tas/NT/ACT).

For further information or an interview with Dr Burdon please contact: Donna Le Page, Le Page PR

Mobile: 0429 825 703 Email:

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