Canadians Have a 40% Risk of Developing Asthma before Age 40

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Canadians Have a 40% Risk of Developing Asthma before Age 40

(Ottawa) “ To mark May 1st ~ World Asthma Day 2007, The Lung Association today cited statistics that show an individual Canadian has a 40 percent risk of developing asthma prior to age 40. The figures come from a study entitled œThe Burden of Asthma in Ontario and conducted by Canadian researcher, Dr. Teresa To of The Hospital for Sick Children. The study was published by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and examined the total lifetime risk of developing asthma before the age of 40.

The study analyzed databases covering 12 million people from the province of Ontario to determine how many people developed asthma from 1994-1995 to 2001-2002. It found that an individual has a two in five chance “ or 40% risk “ of developing asthma before age of 40. The risk of developing asthma is greatest during childhood, with 20% of children being diagnosed as asthmatic by 12 years of age, and a further 20% of individuals being diagnosed between the ages of 12 and 40 years.

This does not mean that 40% of Canadians have asthma right now. Asthma is a variable disease. Some children outgrow their asthma while a smaller proportion will have asthma for life. At present, almost 3 million Canadians are living with asthma or roughly 9.5% of the total population of Canada.

Too many Canadians are suffering from the burden of asthma “ a disease that, quite literally, can take your breath away, said Nora Sobolov, President and CEO of The Lung Association, Convincing data such as this should spur health authorities into action by providing improved access to asthma education and medications according to the Canadian Asthma Guidelines, and for policymakers to bring in the regulations and laws necessary to make significant improvements in Canada's air quality.

Asthma is a chronic (long-term) disease that makes it hard to breathe. At its worst, asthma can be fatal. For example, according to Health Canada, in 2003, asthma killed 287 Canadians, compared with 454 deaths in 1998. While asthma can not be cured it can be managed. In fact, 80% of these deaths may have been prevented with proper asthma education, management and appropriate treatment.

This is the first time in Canada that we are able to use population-based data to generate statistics to measure the risk of developing asthma and they are alarming, said Dr. Teresa To, co-author of the Burden of Asthma in Ontario study, The implications of our finding that 2 out of every 5 people develop asthma point to the need for more research to identify the cause or etiology of asthma that may lead to prevention; and to develop and implement effective asthma programs including treatment, management and education to ensure individuals with asthma will continue to live and function with good quality of life.

Asthma is the most common chronic childhood illness in North America, and rates of asthma “ particularly in children aged 4 to 11 years “ are increasingly significantly. Almost 16% of children ages 4 to 11 have asthma and from 1994 to 2003, among children ages 8 to 11, asthma prevalence increased by 27% among girls and 20% among boys.

The cause of asthma is not completely understood. Hereditary and environmental factors appear to be the biggest risks for the development of asthma. The increase in asthma that has been seen world-wide over the last 25 years may be directly linked to the increase in air pollution. Additionally, there is a strong association between the exposure of children to tobacco smoke and the development of childhood asthma. Asthma can also occur as a result of a viral infection.

May 1st ~ World Asthma Day brings global attention to one of the most common chronic diseases among children and adults, and is designed to ensure that everyone with asthma learns that it can be effectively controlled and that you can lead a normal life. Studies show that 57% of Canadians with asthma have poor asthma control and suffer from a combination of symptoms of coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and night-time awakenings.

The Lung Association provides extensive asthma education through its provincial offices across Canada. Additionally, hundreds of health care professionals have been trained as Certified Asthma Educators through The Lung Association's AsthmaTrecTM program. For further information, please call, toll-free, 1-888-566-5864 or visit

Established in 1900, The Lung Association is one of Canada's oldest and most respected health charities, and the leading national organization for science-based information, research, education, support programs and advocacy on lung heath issues.


The following physicians are available to speak to the media on a national basis:
Dr. Sharon Dell, Division of Respiratory Medicine, The Hospital for Sick Children
Dr. Andrea Gershon, Respirologist and co-author of The Burden of Asthma in Ontario study
Dr. Manon Labrecque of Hôpital Sacré Coeur, Montreal
Dr. Andrew McIvor, Chair of the Asthma Committee for the Canadian Thoracic Society

For further information or to arrange an interview, media representatives may contact:
Cameron Bishop
Director of Communications and Government Affairs
The Lung Association
(613) 569-6411, ext. 223

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Page Last Updated: 21/02/2017