Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Prevalence of asthma in Melbourne schoolchildren: changes over 26 years.

British Medical Journal 1991; 302 doi: (Published 11 May 1991) Cite this as: British Medical Journal 1991;302:1116
  1. C F Robertson,
  2. E Heycock,
  3. J Bishop,
  4. T Nolan,
  5. A Olinsky,
  6. P D Phelan
  1. Department of Thoracic Medicine, Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, Australia.


    OBJECTIVES--To determine the prevalence of asthma in the past 12 months in Melbourne schoolchildren aged 7, 12, and 15 years and to compare the prevalence of a history of asthma with that of 26 years ago. DESIGN--A questionnaire on respiratory symptoms was distributed to children for completion by parents and return to the school. Subjects were selected by a stratified cluster design. SETTING--Government and non-government schools in the greater Melbourne area, Australia. SUBJECTS--10,981 children. Parents completed questionnaires for 3324 children aged 7, 2899 aged 12, and 2968 aged 15. The overall response rate was 90%. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--History of wheeze or asthma in the past 12 months and in lifetime. RESULTS--The prevalences of wheeze in the past 12 months were 23.1%, 21.7%, and 18.6% for 7, 12, and 15 year olds respectively. A history of wheeze was more common in boys than in girls at age 7 (443/1711 v 324/1614) and 12 (418/1767 v 322/1718) but not at age 15. Overall, 78% (1548) of those reporting wheeze also reported a history of asthma and 83% (1611) had used a bronchodilator. The prevalence of a history of asthma among 7 year olds was 46% compared with 19.1% in the 1964 survey, an increase of 141%. CONCLUSIONS--The current prevalence of asthma in Melbourne schoolchildren is high and has risen substantially over the past 26 years.