Asthma is more prevalent in rural New South Wales than metropolitan Victoria, Australia


Correspondence: Rosalie K.Woods Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash Medical School, Alfred Hospital, Commercial Road, Prahran, Victoria 3181, Australia. Email:



The aim of this study was to compare the prevalence of adult respiratory symptoms and conditions in a rural setting with a metropolitan setting.


We used cross-sectional population surveys of respiratory health using the European Respiratory Health Survey screening questionnaire. A random sample of 4455 eligible young adults aged 20–44 years, from electoral rolls in south-eastern metropolitan Melbourne, Victoria, and 4521 from rural south-western New South Wales were surveyed.


Response rates of 72% (n = 3194) and 69% (n = 3121) were achieved in Melbourne and the Riverina, respectively. Respondents from the Riverina reported significantly higher prevalences of nocturnal dyspnoea (P < 0.01), chronic bronchitis (P = 0.03), an asthma attack in the previous 12 months (P < 0.001), ever having had asthma (P < 0.001) and doctor-diagnosed asthma (P < 0.001) compared to those from Melbourne. However, among those with ‘asthma attacks in the last 12 months’, Melbourne respondents experienced a higher frequency of attacks (P < 0.05). Riverina respondents reported a higher prevalence of smoking (P < 0.05) and smoked more cigarettes on average (P < 0.001) than Melbourne respondents. However, annoyance from air pollution was higher in Melbourne than in the Riverina.


These results suggest that asthma is more prevalent in rural southern New South Wales than in Melbourne but follows a different pattern of exacerbations.