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
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: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003