Millennials getting worst asthma care in UK

Asthma UK says young people with asthma are more likely to have uncontrolled asthma and the least likely to get life-saving basic care

Millennials in the UK are more likely to be at high risk of having an asthma attack and the least likely to get life-saving basic asthma care than any other age group, according to a new report launched today by Asthma UK.

Findings in The reality of asthma care in the UK: Annual Asthma Survey 2018 surveyed more than 10,000 people with asthma reveal that:

  • Two thirds (67%) of millennials, those aged 18-29, are not getting basic asthma care, higher than any other age group1
  • Millennials are more likely to have uncontrolled asthma, putting them at a higher risk of an asthma attack2
  • They are twice as likely to need emergency care compared to those over 60 years old3
  • The National Review of Asthma Deaths found two thirds of asthma deaths would have been prevented if people had had basic asthma care4
  • Basic care includes, among other things, a written asthma action plan, a yearly review with your doctor, and an inhaler check.

Asthma UK says that there are a number of reasons why millennials may be getting worse asthma care, including a complacency around the seriousness of asthma or an inability to get a GP appointment.

In general, there is a misconception that asthma is ‘not serious’, with around 1 in 6 people in the UK not knowing that asthma attacks can be fatal5. In fact, every day three people in the UK die from an asthma attack.6

Almost a third (28%) of millennials with asthma did not attend their asthma review. More than 1 in 10 (12%) said that their GP surgery was too busy, so they were unable to book a review. More than half (57%) said they did not receive a reminder that their review was due.7

Younger people with asthma may be more at risk of having an asthma attack because of difficulties finding secure and affordable housing, as poor-quality housing may be more likely to contain mould or damp which could trigger asthma symptoms. With financial uncertainty and fewer employment opportunities, younger people may also be less able to prioritise and look after their health effectively. 

According to national guidelines everyone with asthma should receive basic asthma care. This includes getting a personalised written asthma action plan which explains how to manage their asthma on a day-to-day basis, having an asthma review every year, being on the right medication and being taught the correct inhaler technique.

Since Asthma UK began campaigning on the issue in 2013, the overall proportion of people with asthma getting basic care in the UK has doubled.9 But worryingly, nearly two thirds (60%) are still not getting it.10

Asthma UK is calling on healthcare professionals to make sure they are giving people with asthma basic care and urging people with asthma to attend their appointments and for the NHS to put into practice the promises in its long-term plan.

This includes ensuring people with asthma can access GP care when they need it and embracing the use of digital tools and platforms which could play a significant role in encouraging millennials to engage with their health.

For example, smart inhalers are potentially game-changing devices that track how often and well people are taking their asthma medication – with people accessing the information on their smart phones. They have the potential to help those most at risk of an asthma attack to be identified and helped before they need hospital treatment.

Dr Samantha Walker, Asthma UK’s Director of Research and Policy, said:

“Millennials are getting a raw deal, with the worst asthma care of any age group. As a result, thousands needed emergency care for their asthma last year and were at risk of dying from an asthma attack. This could be avoided if they received the basic care they should be getting and if they were better engaged to manage their own health.

“Healthcare professionals need to make sure they are giving everyone with asthma guidelines-based basic care, and people with asthma of all ages should take responsibility for their own health by attending appointments and taking their medication as prescribed.

“The NHS needs to embrace technology as a mainstay of asthma management to engage this young generation, such as piloting smart inhalers as promised in its long-term plan. It also needs to ensure that patients data and records are linked to ensure asthma attacks are recorded, managed and prevented so people who have had an asthma attack in hospital get appropriate follow-up care from their GP.”

Amy Pay, 27, a writer from Cardiff says she didn’t take her asthma seriously until she nearly ended up in hospital. She says:

“I didn’t take my asthma seriously – I used to skip doses of my preventer inhaler and didn’t think about the consequences. I had asthma reviews but my GP never checked my inhaler technique and I didn’t have a written asthma action plan.

“When I started to wake at night feeling breathless and coughing, I didn’t realise that these were red flags that my asthma was getting worse.  Eventually I couldn’t even walk down the street without stopping to catch my breath. I made an emergency appointment with my asthma nurse who told me if I had left it any longer I could have been in serious danger.

“People don’t realise asthma can be a killer, even when you’re young. Now I make sure I take my preventer inhaler as prescribed and I know what to do if my symptoms are getting worse. I’ll never forget what it felt like to struggle to breathe – I won’t be complacent about my asthma again. I want other people my age to take their asthma seriously. It could save their life.”

To find out more about basic asthma care and how you can get it, visit


For further information, please contact:

Thomas Dearnley-Davison, Senior Social Media & Media Officer – 0207 786 4981 or

Asthma UK media team – 0207 786 4949 or

Out of hours – 07951 721 393

Notes to Editors

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1. In The reality of asthma care in the UK: Annual Asthma Survey 2018 included a survey of 10,064 people with asthma across the UK. 751 survey respondents were aged 18-29, and of those, 67% said they did not receive all elements of basic asthma care. This includes having a written asthma action plan, an annual review and an inhaler technique check.

Estimate of prevalence in the UK based on Mukherjee et al, 2016:; Office for National Statistics-Mid-2010 UK estimate. Prevalence calculated from annual prevalence of patient-reported clinician-diagnosed and treated asthma.


2. Ibid. 88% of those aged 18-29 were identified as having uncontrolled asthma. Uncontrolled asthma is defined as having any one or a combination of: difficulty sleeping (53%), experiencing usual asthma symptoms regularly (85%) and interference with daily activities (50%).


3. Ibid. 34% of those aged 18-29 had received emergency or unplanned care in the last year, compared to 17% of those aged 60-69, 16% of those aged 70-79, and 15% of those aged 80+.


4. Royal College of Physicians, Why Asthma Still Kills: The National Review of Asthma Deaths (NRAD), May 2014,


5. NFP Charity Awareness Monitor, January 2017, 1,000 adults in Britain aged 16+. Which, if of any, of the following statements do you think is true about asthma? Asthma attacks can be fatal. 16% said no or not sure


6. Death registrations in England and Wales, Office for National Statistics,  Office for National Statistics (ONS) – England & Wales, Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency (NISRA), National Records of Scotland (NRS); Calculated from 5 year average: 2013-2017


7. The reality of asthma care in the UK: Annual Asthma Survey 2018 included a survey of 10,064 people with asthma across the UK. 751 survey respondents were aged 18-29, and of those, 28% of millennials with asthma did not attend their asthma review. 12% said that their GP surgery was too busy to book a review and 57% said they did not receive a reminder that their review was due.


8. Asthma UK’s report On the edge: How inequality affects people with asthma shows how asthma outcomes can vary based on factors like where you live and how much you earn.


9. Compare your care: how asthma care in the UK matches up to standards included a survey of 5,878 people with asthma across the UK. Of those respondents, 20% said they received all three elements of basic asthma care across all age groups. This is compared to 40% in Asthma UK’s The reality of asthma care in the UK: Annual Asthma Survey 2018.


10. Ibid.


About Asthma UK

  • In the UK, 5.4 million people are currently receiving treatment for asthma: 1.1 million children (1 in 11) and 4.3 million adults (1 in 12).
  • Every day, the lives of three families are devastated by the death of a loved one to an asthma attack, and tragically two thirds of these deaths are preventable.
  • Asthma UK’s mission is to stop asthma attacks and cure asthma. We do this by funding world leading research, campaigning for improved care and supporting people to reduce their risk of a potentially life-threatening asthma attack.
  • For more information about asthma please visit