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Asthma Health Center

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Asthma a Problem for Millions

About 25 Million People in U.S. Have Asthma, Study Finds
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Jan. 12, 2011 -- Asthma takes a heavy toll on Americans, causing thousands of deaths and sending nearly 2 million people to emergency rooms for treatment each year, a new report finds.

In addition, asthma prevalence is higher among females, children, African-Americans, Puerto Ricans, people living below the poverty level, and residents of the Northeast and Midwest, says the report by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.

According to the report:

  • 8.2% of the U.S. population has asthma, or about 24.9 million people.
  • That total includes 17.5 million adults and 7.1 million children.
  • In 2008, a preliminary estimate of 3,395 asthma deaths were reported, down slightly from 3,447 in 2007.
  • The disease accounted for 10.5 million lost school days and 14.2 million lost work days in 2008.
  • About 1.75 million people went to emergency rooms for asthma treatment in 2007, and 456,000 were hospitalized and discharged after being treated for asthma.
  • Nearly 14 million people visited private doctor’s offices for asthma treatment in 2007.
  • 4.2% of the population in 2009 reported at least one asthma attack in the previous year, or 52% of people with current asthma.

Asthma Differences Among Population Subgroups

Study authors say there are significant differences in asthma prevalence among various subgroups in the population. Females are more likely than males to have asthma, though boys have a higher prevalence than girls up to age 17. Also, compared with white people, asthma prevalence is higher among blacks and lower among Asians.

Other key findings:

  • Asthma prevalence is higher among Puerto Ricans and lower among Mexicans compared with non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic blacks.
  • In 2008, children 5-17 with at least one asthma attack in the past year missed 10.5 million school days in the previous year. Adults aged 18 and over who had at least one asthma attack in the past year reported missing 14.2 million work days.
  • Among employed people, 6% of adults with at least one asthma attack in the past year said they had a breathing problem that caused limitation of activities.

Asthma Rates Higher in Northeast

Researchers say there is no difference in asthma prevalence rates between metropolitan area residents and people who live outside of metro areas.

Geographically, however, people in the Northeast are more likely to have asthma than people in the West and South. Prevalence also is greater in the Midwest than the South.

Asthma prevalence remains at historically high levels even though increases in prevalence slowed in the mid-1990s, the authors report.

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