These statistics on asthma in the UK were compiled as part of our Respiratory Health of the Nation project by teams at St George’s University of London, Nottingham University and Imperial College London.
Asthma is a common, long-term disease that requires ongoing management. If you have asthma, you have very sensitive airways – the tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs. Certain triggers can cause your airways to become inflamed and tighten when you breathe. Triggers can include stress, exercise, cold air, and breathing in particular substances such as smoke, pollution or pollen.
Numbers of people with asthma
How many people in the UK have asthma?
We found that 8 million people – over 12% of the population – have been diagnosed with asthma. This means more people have had an asthma diagnosis than have been diagnosed with all other lung diseases combined.
This does not mean that there are 8 million people living with the condition, however. Many children diagnosed with asthma grow out of it. Asthma UK states that around 5.4 million people receive treatment for the disease. Research has also suggested asthma maybe considerably over-diagnosed.
Further research is needed to understand if this is a more accurate indication of the number of people living with asthma in the UK. Or whether this is an underestimate due to the number of people who no longer take treatment for asthma in adulthood, despite still having symptoms.
Our data also confirm that the number of people who have had a diagnosis of asthma is plateauing. There has only been a small increase of under 3% in recent years. However, asthma is still the most common lung condition by a considerable margin.
Estimated numbers of people ever diagnosed with asthma 2004–12
How many people have asthma in each region of the UK?
In most years between 2004 and 2013, a higher proportion of the population had asthma in the East Midlands, the East of England, the North West and the South West than in other parts of the UK.
Number of people per 100,000 ever diagnosed with asthma, by UK region, 2004–12
How many people develop asthma for the first time each year in the UK?
Around 160,000 people a year receive an asthma diagnosis. This is more than are diagnosed with any other lung condition. However, incidence rates went down by around 10% between 2008 and 2012.
We need further research to understand why. Possible reasons include:
- Asthma is becoming less common.
- Conditions like COPD are becoming less likely to be misdiagnosed as asthma.
- Better diagnosis has reduced the backlog of cases that failed to be diagnosed in the past. Consequently, only new cases are being diagnosed.
Number of people per 100,000 newly diagnosed with asthma, each year, 2004–12
How many people developed asthma in each UK region in 2004–13?
In 2004–13, the rates of people who have developed asthma have been slightly higher in the North West and South West of England, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
Number of people per 100,000 newly diagnosed with asthma, by UK region, 2004–12
How many males and females have asthma in the UK?
In 2012, 12,565 females per 100,000 and 12,033 males per 100,000 had asthma. Asthma occurred slightly more frequently in females than males throughout the years 2004–12.
Number of males and females ever diagnosed with asthma per 100,000, 2004–12
How many males and females were newly diagnosed with asthma each year in 2004–13?
In 2012, 284 females and 261 males per 100,000 received a first diagnosis of asthma. More females than males developed asthma throughout the period 2004–12.
Number of males and females per 100,000 newly diagnosed with asthma each year, 2004–12
Ages of people with asthma
At what ages are people most likely to have asthma?
Recent figures show that young adults are the group most likely to have been diagnosed with asthma at some point in their lifetime. Between 2004-12, lifetime prevalence of asthma has declined in children and increased in adults.
Number of people per 100,000 ever diagnosed with asthma, by age group, 2004–12
What age are the people who develop asthma each year in the UK?
In contrast to other lung diseases, the incidence of asthma is far higher in children than in adults.
Number of people per 100,000 newly diagnosed with asthma, by age group, 2004–12
Deaths from asthma
How many people died from asthma in the UK in 2012?
Around 1,200 people a year are recorded as dying from asthma.
Although low compared with most other lung diseases, this figure is still too high. Given the manageability of asthma, mortality should be closer to zero. The Royal College of Physicians’ report Why asthma still kills (2015) details how managing the disease more effectively could dramatically reduce mortality.
UK deaths from asthma compared with other lung diseases, 2012
How many males and females died from asthma in the UK in 2012?
In 2012, of the 1,246 people who died from asthma, 358 were males and 888 were females.
How old were the people who died from asthma in the UK in 2012?
In 2012, of the 1,246 people who died from asthma:
- 21 were aged 0–14 years old;
- 204 were aged 15–64; and
- 1,021 were aged 65 and above.
How many people died from asthma in each UK region in 2008–12?
England: Death rates for asthma in the West Midlands and the South East were higher than in other parts of the UK. The South West had the lowest asthma mortality rate.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland: Asthma death rates were similar to the UK generally.
Asthma mortality ratios by UK regions, males and females, 2008–12
Relative risk of death from asthma, by local authority district (England, Scotland and Wales), 2008–12
Relative risk is used in medical research to compare risk in different groups of people. In the maps we show the risk of an area (local authority district) relative to the average for Scotland, England and Wales. Here we show whether the group of people living in a particular area have a risk of dying from asthma that is lower or higher than the average. Because of the way relative risk is calculated there must always be some areas above average and some below average.
You can find out how these figures were calculated.
Emergency hospital admissions
How do rates of emergency admission to hospital for asthma vary across the UK, 2008–12?
Asthma accounts for 60,000 hospital admissions and 200,000 bed days a year. Compared with conditions such as pneumonia and COPD, these figures are low. But like mortality rates, they are too high for such a manageable condition.
Its also worth noting that many people with asthma attend accident and emergency units without needing admission, but still adding to the burden on health services.
England: There were higher rates of emergency admission in the North East, North West, Yorkshire and the Humber and the West Midlands than in the UK generally. There were lower admission rates in the East of England, the South East and South West.
Notably more males were admitted in the North East, North West, West Midlands, and London.
Scotland: The admission rate among women was higher than in the UK generally.
Wales: Admission rates were comparable to those for the UK generally.
Northern Ireland: There were lower admission rates for males and females compared with the UK generally.
Asthma hospital admission ratios, males and females, in each UK region, 2008–12
Relative risk of hospital admissions for asthma, by local authority district (England, Scotland and Wales), 2010
Relative risk is used in medical research to compare risk in different groups of people. In the maps we show the risk of an area (local authority district) relative to the average for Scotland, England and Wales. Here we show whether the group of people living in a particular area have a risk of emergency admission to hospital from asthma that is lower or higher than the average. Because of the way relative risk is calculated there must always be some areas above average and some below average.
You can find out how these figures were calculated.
Standard of living and asthma
Does your standard of living affect your chances of having asthma in the UK?
In 2012 incidence rates were 36% higher in the most deprived communities than in the least deprived. Prevalence is around 11% higher. These trends are broadly consistent over time. Higher levels of damp housing and fungal spores, pollution and second-hand smoke among more deprived groups could be contributing factors. But further research is needed to fully understand this link.
Number of people per 100,000 ever diagnosed with asthma, by standard of living, 2004–12
Find out how the standard of living figures were calculated: Methodology - standard of living
How were these figures calculated?
Find out how the numbers of people with asthma, deaths and hospital admissions were calculated: Methodology - numbers, deaths and admissions