Asthma deaths in England and Wales hit highest peak for 10 years

First published: 13 July 2016

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed new data today which shows an increase in the number of asthma related deaths in England and Wales in 2015.

The annual death rate statistics show that 1,302 asthma deaths were recorded, which is a 17% increase in the number of asthma related deaths since 2014. The figures also show the highest number of deaths due to asthma in over ten years.

The statistics are presented by sex, age and area of residence and show that women aged 65 or over make up nearly 56% of all asthma deaths registered in 2015.

Dr Samantha Walker, Director of Research and Policy at Asthma UK, said: “Every ten seconds someone in the UK has a potentially life threatening asthma attack. Tragically the statistics released by the Office for National Statistics today reveal the highest number of deaths due to asthma we have seen in ten years.

“It’s really alarming that over half of those deaths were women aged 65 or over. It is becoming increasingly clear that there are different sub-types of asthma but, in contrast to childhood asthma, we know far less about asthma that affects older adults. What we do know is that it doesn’t tend to get better, that it is usually more serious and severe than asthma in children, and that treatment options are extremely limited. This means we desperately need greater investment in research to find new treatments for this type of asthma to alleviate the distress and suffering that are associated with it. 

“Older people must take their asthma seriously as there is a risk that asthma falls off the priority list when there are lots of others things to consider - especially if they also have multiple other long term medical conditions.

“It is really important for older people with asthma to get their flu jabs, go for their annual asthma review, have an asthma action plan agreed with their GP or practice nurse and take their medication as prescribed.”

Vicki Shenton, age 60, from Market Drayton, was diagnosed with late onset asthma in her 50s, said: “About five years ago on a late summer's day, I was helping one of my daughters pack a suitcase when I suddenly started to wheeze. It came on completely out of the blue. I didn't know what was happening until my daughter said, 'Mum, I think you're having an asthma attack'. She has asthma and luckily had her reliever inhaler with her. I had a couple of puffs and it relieved the symptoms straight away. 

“I made an appointment with my GP the following day and she diagnosed late onset asthma. I was given two inhalers a preventer and a reliever. It was a shock to be diagnosed with a chronic condition, especially one I'd only ever associated with children and young adults. Stress has recently become a trigger for me, as well as cold weather. I have an asthma review with my GP practice every six months and am currently waiting for a referral to the asthma team at the hospital to consider my treatment options."

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Office for National Statistics (ONS) report, Death registrations in England and Wales, summary tables: 2015

Asthma deaths in England and Wales since 2003:

Year Sex All ages
2003 All 1267
2004 All 1264
2005 All 1183
2006 All 1082
2007 All 1033
2008 All 1071
2009 All 1018
2010 All 1022
2011 All 1041
2012 All 1126
2013 All 1113
2014 All 1114
2015 All 1302
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