SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Keywords:

  • air pollution;
  • asthma;
  • cross-sectional survey;
  • epidemiology;
  • respiratory symptoms

Objective:

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

Methodology:

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.

Results:

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.

Conclusions:

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