Asthma is a common lung disease. In the United States, about 25.7 million people have asthma, including seven million children.1 Approximately 1.8 million people have an asthma-related emergency department visit each year, and 439,000 people are hospitalized.1 About 3,400 people die from asthma each year in the United States.2 The number of asthma deaths has been declining steadily since 2001.2
Worldwide, there are about 334 million people with asthma.3 Asthma is most prevalent in Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, and Northwestern Europe.
Who has asthma?
- For children younger than 15, boys are more likely to have asthma than girls. Among older teens and adults, asthma is more common in women than men.4
- Asthma is more common in children than adults: 8.1% of people younger than 15 years have asthma compared with 7.2% of people older than 35 years.4
- In the United States, people living in the Northeast and Midwest are most likely to have asthma, compared with people in the South and West. The prevalence of asthma is the same in metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas.2
- Asthma is more common in people with lower incomes.2
How do asthma and asthma outcomes differ by race/ethnicity?
Black children are much more likely than Hispanic or white children to have asthma. Thirteen percent of black children have asthma, compared with 7.4% of Hispanic children and 7.0% of white children.4 Asthma is also more common in black teens and adults (9.0%) than Hispanic (5.6%) or white (7.5%) teens and adults. Among Hispanic individuals, Puerto Ricans are more likely to have asthma and asthma attacks than Mexicans.2
For many years, black children had more hospitalizations, emergency department visits, and deaths related to asthma than others.5 Public health agencies are working on programs to improve asthma care for black children and adults.5 One recent study showed there has been progress.6 The rate of asthma attacks is now the same among white and black children with asthma. The gaps in emergency department visits and hospitalizations are closing.
Is asthma becoming more or less common?
Overall, 7.4% of the population had asthma in 2013.4 In previous years, the percentage of people who had asthma (called “asthma prevalence”) was higher: 8.5% in 2012 and 8.6% in 2011. The percentage of people who had an asthma attack has also dropped, from 4.4% to 3.8% between 2012 and 2013. This could be good news – fewer people have asthma and asthma attacks – but it might also be a fluke. Researchers are waiting for the 2014 statistics before they draw any conclusions.7
How common are asthma attacks?
About half of people with asthma have an asthma attack.8 Asthma attacks are more common in children (56.1%) than adults (49.6%). People with asthma living in the West (54.5%) and South (53.1%) are more likely to report an asthma attack than residents of the Midwest (49.4%) and Northeast (47.8%). Adults with lower incomes are more likely to have an asthma attack than adults with higher incomes.
What are the costs of asthma to society?
More than $50 billion is spent in the United States each year on medical expenses related to asthma.5 Almost one in two children miss at least one day of school each year due to asthma: that adds up to 10.5 million missed days of school!9 Children with severe asthma or asthma that disrupts sleep do not do as well in school as children with mild asthma.5 Adults with asthma miss 14.2 million days of work each year.9