Papers And Short Reports

Mortality from asthma: a new epidemic in New Zealand

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1982; 285 doi: (Published 18 September 1982) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1982;285:771
  1. Rodney T Jackson,
  2. Robert Beaglehole,
  3. Harold H Rea,
  4. David C Sutherland


    Trends in mortality attributed to asthma in the 5-34-year age group were examined in New Zealand, Australia, England and Wales, the United States, Canada, and West Germany for the years 1959-79. An epidemic of deaths from asthma occurred in the mid-1960s in New Zealand, Australia, and England and Wales but not in the other countries. In Australia and England and Wales the death rate quickly returned to pre-epidemic levels, but in New Zealand the decline in mortality was slow, and by 1974 the death rate was still almost double the pre-epidemic level. Of great concern was an abrupt increase in reported deaths from asthma in New Zealand after 1976 with the mortality rate during 1977-9 being greater than during the previous epidemic. In contrast, asthma mortality had remained relatively stable in the other populations.

    The new epidemic in New Zealand was investigated and appeared to be real. It could not be explained by changes in the classification of deaths from asthma, inaccuracies in death certification, or changes in diagnostic fashions. The most likely explanation appeared to be related to the management of asthma in New Zealand, and this is being investigated.