Latest release

Asthma

Contains key statistics and information about asthma and its prevalence in Australia

Reference period
2020-21 financial year
Released
21/03/2022
Next release 17/06/2022

Key statistics

  • Just under 2.7 million (10.7%) Australians had asthma in 2020-21
  • One in three people with asthma (34.6%) had a written action plan
  • One in three people with asthma (34.9%) used asthma-related medication daily

The National Health Survey 2020-21 was collected online during the COVID-19 pandemic and is a break in time series. Data should be used for point-in-time analysis only and can’t be compared to previous years. See Methodology for more information.

Asthma is a long-term lung condition that is caused by narrowing of the airways when they become inflamed[1]. People with asthma experience difficulty breathing, and the most common symptoms are wheezing, coughing, breathlessness and chest tightness[1]. Asthma may affect people of all ages and can usually be managed through treatment such as medication use (e.g. reliever inhalers and preventer/controller medications) and a healthy lifestyle[2].

Asthma prevalence

Just under 2.7 million people (10.7% of the total population) had asthma in 2020-21. Females were more likely than males to have asthma (12.0% compared to 9.4%); however, the rate of asthma was similar in boys and girls aged 0-14 years (9.5% and 7.9%).

Characteristics of people with asthma

In 2020-21, people:

  • Born in Australia were more than twice as likely as those born overseas to have asthma (12.6% compared to 6.0%)
  • Who lived in Inner Regional areas were more likely than those who lived in Outer Regional and Remote areas to have asthma (13.1% compared to 9.2%).

People with a profound or severe core activity limitation were almost three times more likely than those with no disability to have asthma (23.3% and 8.2%). People aged 18 years and over with asthma had higher rates than the general population of daily smoking (14.0% compared with 10.6%).

Management

The National Asthma Council Australia recommends people with asthma should have their own individual written action plan that includes instructions on what to do when asthma symptoms worsen[2]. More than one in three (34.6%) people with asthma had a written action plan. Of those with asthma:

  • More than three in five (65.9%) children under 18 years of age had a written action plan
  • More than one in four (27.1%) people aged 18 years and over had a written action plan
  • Women aged 18 years and over were more likely than men to have a written action plan (32.7% compared to 20.2%).

Frequency of medication use varies by age. Of those with asthma:

  • Just under half (48.8%) of children under 18 years of age used asthma-related medication in the two weeks prior to the survey
  • More than three in five (63.2%) people aged 18 years and over used asthma-related medication in two weeks prior to the survey
  • One in three (34.9%) people of all ages used medication to help manage symptoms daily and two in five (39.8%) did not take medication in the two weeks prior to survey.

Perceptions of health

People aged 18 years and over with asthma rated their health more poorly when compared with the general population. People with asthma were less likely than the total population to rate their health as excellent or very good (38.5% compared to 55.6%).

Data downloads

Data files

Footnotes

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 4364.0.00.002.

Media release

See National Health Survey 2020-21 Media release for more information.