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Gender differences in asthma prevalence: Variations with socioeconomic disadvantage


  • Conflict of Interest Statement: R.R. has received a Glaxo Smith Kline donation of 30 peak flow meters for an asthma study 2 years ago, and the University of Adelaide has received honorarium for R.R. speaking at Glaxo Smith Kline meetings. R.A. has received reimbursement for attending conferences and speaker's fees from Glaxo-Smith Kline.

Catherine R. Chittleborough, Population Research and Outcome Studies Unit, SA Health, PO Box 287, Rundle Mall, Adelaide, SA 5000, Australia. Email:


Background and objective:  Socioeconomic inequalities in health have been shown to vary for different diseases and by gender. This study aimed to examine gender differences in associations between asthma and socioeconomic disadvantage.

Methods:  Socioeconomic variables were assessed among men and women in the North West Adelaide Health Study, a representative population cohort (n = 4060) aged 18 years and over in metropolitan South Australia. Asthma was determined from spirometry and self-reported doctor diagnosis.

Results:  The prevalence of asthma was 12.0% (95% CI: 11.1–13.1), and was significantly higher among women (13.5%) than men (10.5%). For participants aged 18–64 years a higher prevalence of asthma was associated with an education level of secondary school or lower, or not being in the paid labour force among men, and with a gross annual household income of $20 000 or less among women. Among socioeconomically advantaged groups, the prevalence of asthma was significantly higher among women than men.

Conclusions:  Socioeconomic disadvantage was associated with higher asthma prevalence, although this varied by gender depending on the indicator of socioeconomic position used. Men with low education or those not employed in the paid labour force had higher asthma prevalence than more socioeconomically advantaged men. Women with low income had higher asthma prevalence than those with higher income. Among all socioeconomically advantaged groups, and also the low-income group, women experienced a higher prevalence of asthma than men.