After years of asthma rates rising all around the world, we finally have some good news: in the UK, asthma rates have gone down 10% over the last ten years.
The results come from one of the oldest and longest running asthma surveys in the world-- the Aberdeen School Asthma Study. Since 1964, every 5 years Aberdeen schools have sent their students home with a survey asking parents if their child suffers from asthma, wheezing, hay fever or eczema. Some of the kids taking home the study today are the third generation in their family to do so.
At first, asthma rates were skyrocketing. In 1964, they were at less than 5%. By 1989, they reached 10%. And by 2004, they were over 25%. Fortunately, they have dropped back significantly and are now just over 15%.
Dr. Steve Turner, a senior clinical lecturer at the University of Aberdeen, spoke at length about possible reasons why asthma rates have dropped so significantly. “Some of the apparent drop is down to more careful diagnoses being made nowadays. In years gone by, asthma was perhaps being diagnosed more freely than it ought to have been. There have also been clear changes in our environment from diet, to the air we breathe. Some might even… say the smoking ban could be part of it, but we don’t know for certain.”
Oddly, despite the significant drop in asthma two other allergic conditions-- eczema and hay fever-- have not dropped, leading Dr. Turner to speculate that perhaps allergies don’t affect asthma as much as we think.
Whatever the case, it’s encouraging that asthma rates are declining. Hopefully, we will see a similar trend around the world.