Background Previous studies have shown that IgE levels vary according to factors such as age, gender and smoking but most studies have been small and none have been based on a nationally representative sample.
Objectives To investigate the influence of epidemiological factors on serum total IgE and house dust mite-specific IgE levels.
Methods An interviewer-led questionnaire was carried out and blood samples taken from 24 952 people aged 11 and over as part of the 1995 and 1996 Health Surveys for England. Serum total IgE and house dust mite-specific IgE were measured.
Results Both total and house dust mite-specific IgE were more frequently raised in men and in younger age groups. After adjusting for age and sex, raised total IgE was more common in current smokers and non-white ethnic groups and was not related to social class. The higher levels in non-white ethnic groups was not explained by smoking, urban living or being born outside the UK. Whilst total IgE levels declined in older age groups in non-smokers, among smokers they increased across successive age groups from 50 years onwards. In contrast, following adjustment for age and sex, raised house dust mite IgE was more common in non-manual workers and in some non-white ethnic groups but was not related to smoking.
Conclusions This large nationwide study provides further confirmation of differing epidemiological patterns for total serum IgE and allergen-specific sensitization. Indicative ranges for ‘usual’ values for a wide range of ages among men and women in England are given.