Background Little is known about time trends of allergic respiratory disease in adults, in particular in older adults. Furthermore, few trend studies have used objective measurements of IgE sensitization against inhalant allergens.
Objectives To investigate time trends of aeroallergen sensitization in adults over a 25-year period.
Methods The study includes a total of 7820 persons, aged 30, 40, 50, and 60 years, who participated in three repeated cross-sectional studies of the general population of Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1976–1977, 1982–1984, and 1999–2001, respectively. Respiratory allergy was assessed by determination of specific IgE aeroallergen sensitization in stored serum samples.
Results Over this 25-year period, a marked and statistically significant increase in the prevalence of aeroallergen sensitization had occurred. This increase was seen in all age-groups challenging the notion that the allergy epidemic only affects generations born 1960 onwards. For example, in 40-year-olds the prevalence (with 95% confidence intervals) of aeroallergen sensitization was 14.9% (12.7–17.1), 19.7% (17.1–22.3), and 27.6% (25.1–30.1) in 1976–1977, 1982–1984, and 1999–2001, respectively.
Conclusions Our results support that the allergy epidemic has spread to older adults resulting in a continuing increase in the overall prevalence of aeroallergen sensitization and an increase in the mean age of allergic patients.