HealthStats NSW

  • + Key points: Asthma

    Latest available information

    Latest available data for adults in NSW

      • 10.4% of adults aged 16 years and over (8.1% of men and 12.6% of women) had asthma, as estimated from the 2015 NSW Adult Population Health Survey (self reported using a Computer Assisted Telephone Interview or CATI).

      • Asthma was responsible for 120 deaths in 2013 and around 12,742 hospitalisations in 2014-15.

    Latest available data for children in NSW

      • 13.5% of children aged 2-15 years (14.5% of boys and 12.4% of girls) had asthma, as estimated from the 2014-2015 NSW Child Population Health Survey (parent reported using CATI).

    Latest available data for adult Aboriginal persons in NSW

      • 20.6% of adult Aboriginal persons aged 16 years and over had asthma, as estimated from the 2015 NSW Adult Population Health Survey (self reported using a Computer Assisted Telephone Interview or CATI).

    Overall trends in NSW

    Self-reported data on asthma have been collected for adults in NSW since 1997 through the NSW Population Health Survey and parent-reported data on asthma have been collected for children in NSW since 2001 through the NSW Population Health Survey.

    Prevalence estimates, although differing slightly between surveys because of different sampling frames, participation rates and modes of collection (telephone versus face-to-face personal interview) have not changed over time.


    Centre for Epidemiology and Evidence, NSW Ministry of Health. NSW Population Health Survey. Available at:

    Australian Bureau of Statistics, National Health Survey: First Results (4364.0.55.001); NSW Table, 2014-2015. Available at:

  • + Background: Asthma

     Respiratory diseases

    Respiratory diseases include acute diseases, such as influenza and pneumonia, and chronic respiratory diseases (specifically asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asbestosis, and respiratory tuberculosis), where preventive measures and better management of conditions can reduce the burden of disease and reduce associated healthcare costs.

    Chronic respiratory diseases were responsible for 7.1% of total burden of disease and injury in Australia in 2003, with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma accounting for 46% and 34% of this burden, respectively (Begg et al. 2007).

    Influenza and pneumonia

    Influenza and pneumonia are acute respiratory diseases that can be very severe and, in persons at high risk, can lead to death. Influenza and pneumonia cause around 1.8% of all deaths and around 0.9% of hospital separations and are an important cause of hospitalisations in the very young, and of death and hospitalisations among older age groups.


    Asthma is a significant public health problem in Australia and it is estimated that Australian prevalence rates are among the highest in the world. Fortunately, recent studies in children show no further increase in prevalence. In Australia in 2003, asthma was estimated to account for 2.3% of the disease burden (Begg et al. 2007).

    Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

    Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are the two main conditions comprising chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In Australia in 2003, COPD was estimated to account for 2.9% of the disease burden (Begg et al. 2007).


    Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by the bacterial organism Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Despite the increasing burden from respiratory tuberculosis globally, it is not a major public health problem in NSW. In fact the mortality and morbidity from all types of tuberculosis in NSW is one of the lowest in the world.

    Lung cancer

    Lung cancer is excluded from analyses of respiratory diseases, as it is classified with cancers, and not with respiratory diseases, in the International Classification of Diseases (the coding system used for health data in NSW). However, some indicators analysing respiratory diseases explicitly include lung cancer to provide a more appropriate measure of the burden of respiratory disease from a clinical and health services planning perspective.

    Risk factors

    Cigarette smoking is the main risk factor for both COPD and lung cancer and the current incidence rates of these conditions reflect smoking rates 20 years and more in the past. Lung cancer is one of the leading causes of death in Australia.


    Begg S, Vos T, Barker B. The burden of disease and injury in Australia, 2003. Cat. no. PHE 82 edition. Canberra: AIHW, 2007.


  • + Interventions: Asthma


    Written asthma management plans are recommended as part of the national guidelines for the management of asthma: Australian Asthma Handbook (NACA 2015). They enable people with asthma to recognise a deterioration in their condition and initiate appropriate treatment, thereby reducing the severity of acute episodes.

    The Australian Asthma Handbook promotes preventive care activities, proper inhaler technique and adherence and stepped medical management where the use of medicines can be increased or decreased depending on circumstances and the therapy combinations.


    The NSW Tuberculosis Program is successful as the incidence of tuberculosis in NSW has remained stable over the last decade despite large-scale migration from high-prevalence countries and the treatment success rates have been high, with the absence of treatment failures and low rates of relapse of cases initially treated in Australia.

    The main challenges to the NSW Tuberculosis Program are similar to those that face tuberculosis control globally. They include control of multi-drug resistant and extreme drug-resistant tuberculosis and identification and management of tuberculosis-HIV coinfection (O'Connor et al. 2009).

    Influenza and pneumonia

    Influenza and pneumococcal disease are covered by the National Immunisation Programs in NSW.

    Influenza has been a notifiable disease by all laboratories under the Public Health Act in NSW since 2001. Surveillance is enhanced in winter months when the NSW Ministry of Health collects and reports weekly on influenza-like illness presentations to Emergency Departments, through the Public Health Rapid, Emergency, Disease and Syndromic Surveillance System (PHREDSS), and laboratory-confirmed diagnoses of influenza virus infections.

    Emergency Departments in NSW are prepared for influenza epidemics with peak visit plans and similar measures in winter months.


    National Asthma Council Australia. Australian Asthma Handbook. NACA, 2015. Available at:

    O'Connor B, Fritsche L, Christensen A, McAnulty J. EpiReview: Tuberculosis in New South Wales, 2003-2007. NSW Public Health Bulletin, 2009. Available at: