• asthma;
  • older people;
  • qualitative research;
  • self-management strategies


Introduction:  Asthma mortality has declined overall because of a range of public health initiatives. In western countries, the majority of asthma deaths now occur in people over the age of 50. The reasons for the poorer response of older age groups to public health asthma initiatives are not known.

Objectives:  We undertook a study to investigate the disease perspectives of older people with asthma and barriers which may exist and prevent optimal asthma care.

Methods:  Fifty-five participants (16 male and 39 female) aged over 50 from an inner city, suburban area and a rural region were recruited. Lung function was measured, and questionnaire data on asthma symptoms, knowledge and control, medication use and respiratory health were collected. Participants were also interviewed in-depth, and the quantitative and qualitative data were triangulated.

Results:  Participants with a duration of asthma for >30 years reported significantly fewer symptoms and better quality of life irrespective of asthma severity, indicating less appreciation of symptoms in those with a long asthma duration. Interviews revealed this was related to previous asthma management strategies when treatment options were limited. Participants with a recent diagnosis sought understanding of asthma and the reason for their illness. Initiatives to improve asthma care in older people need to reflect these findings.

Conclusions:  Self-management strategies for older people need to be tailored according to the time of disease onset and the duration of disease.

Please cite this paper as: Goeman DP, O’Hehir RE, Jenkins C, Scharf SL and Douglass JA. ‘You have to learn to live with it’: a qualitative and quantitative study of older people with asthma. The Clinical Respiratory Journal 2007; 1:99–105.