UK tops European league for asthma sufferers

The UK has more asthma sufferers than any other country in Europe and is among the worst affected in the world, according to a new report.

At least one in seven children aged under 16, and one in 25 adults have been diagnosed with the condition, totalling 3.4 million people. Only Australia and New Zealand have a higher proportion of diagnosed sufferers.

Asthma has been rising rapidly, according to the report by the National Asthma Campaign. The number of adults consulting a doctor for the condition more than trebled in the 20 years to 1991 and is continuing to grow. GPs recorded almost five times as many new episodes of asthma in under-fives in 1993 compared with 1979 and a four-fold increase in five to 14-year- olds.

The cause of asthma remains a mystery and experts are unsure whether the rise is a genuine increase or the result of better diagnosis and increasing awareness. The differences between countries may reflect differences in medical practice and public awareness rather than differences in the prevalence of the disease.

A spokesman for the National Asthma Campaign said: "The international comparisons are based on a standardised questionnaire given to people in up to four cities in each country. It is difficult to draw conclusions from the data but you can't deny the facts."

Possible causes for the rise in asthma include changes in the living environment, such as the introduction of central heating and fitted carpets which harbour house dust mites, and effects on the immune system caused by maternal smoking, vaccinations and the use of antibiotics. Known triggers of asthma attacks include pollution, smoking, dust, stress and exercise but none of these is thought to cause the underlying condition.

The spokesman added: "There is a lot we don't know about asthma but we do know how to manage it and we are getting good at it. People who are diagnosed can be shown how to take control of it so they avoid having asthma attacks."

Data on attacks

Country City Asthma attack %*

UK Cambridge 5.7

France Paris 4.3

Greece Athens 4.2

Italy Turin 4.2

Ireland Dublin 3.6

Denmark Aarhus 3.4

Sweden Uppsala 3.3

Portugal Oporto 3.0

Holland Groningen 3.0

Germany Hamburg 3.0

Belgium Antwerp 2.6

Austria Vienna 2.2

Spain Barcelona 2.1

*Percentage of people aged 20 to 44 who suffered an asthma attack in 1996

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence