Asthma UK responds to 'damning' new research revealing UK inequality is leading to more asthma deaths

Asthma UK is calling for urgent action to address the social causes of asthma after new research presented at the British Thoracic Society (BTS) today (Thursday 5th December 2019), reveals stark evidence of the links between inequality and asthma deaths in the UK.

The BTS study found that higher levels of financial inequality are linked to an increase in asthma deaths in both adults and children and the more unequal a country is, the more asthma deaths occur*.

New figures also published this week in the Health Survey for England reveal adults in the lowest household income quintile were more likely to have current asthma, 10% of men and 15% of women, than adults in the highest income quintile, 9% of men and 8% of women**.

The Health Survey for England also found more adults in the lowest household income quintile experienced asthma symptoms in the last 12 months than adults in the highest income quintile***.

The survey found 7% of men and 12% of women in the lowest household income quintile had experienced symptoms of asthma in the last 12 months compared to 5% of men and 4% of women in the highest household income quintile.

Joe Farrington Douglas, Head of Policy and External Affairs at Asthma UK, said:

“It cannot be right that adults in deprived areas not only struggle to make ends meet but are more likely to experience symptoms including life threatening asthma attacks. These damning new figures show that unequal societies have more asthma deaths and poorer areas of England have higher rates of asthma.

“This must be a wake-up call for the next government to tackle the social causes of asthma including damp housing, air pollution and smoking addiction. We are also calling on politicians to relieve the burden on people struggling with bills and their asthma by scrapping unfair asthma prescription charges.”

“Everyone with asthma should be getting basic asthma care, which includes a written asthma action plan, an inhaler technique check and a yearly asthma review, but more than 3 million people may not be getting this****. The provision of basic care helps stop asthma attacks and saves people’s lives and should be delivered irrespective of income.”

Notes to Editors:

* Connett, G J. Rudrappa, S. Increased national mortality rates for asthma are associated with increased financial inequality as calculated by the GINI index. Abstract presented at British Thoracic Society (BTS) Winter Conference 2019.

** Health Survey for England 2018, NHS Digital. Accessed at

*** HSE as above

****In The reality of asthma care in the UK: Annual Asthma Survey 2018, Asthma UK surveyed 10,064 people and found 60% were not receiving overall basic care provision. When applied to the asthma population of 5.4million people in the UK, this equates to 3.24million, p7.