Change in the Prevalence Asthma, Rhinitis and Respiratory Symptom Over a 20 year Period

Associations to Year of Birth, Life Style and Sleep Related Symptoms

Christer Janson; Ane Johannessen; Karl Franklin; Cecilie Svanes; Linus Schiöler; Andrei Malinovschi; Thorarinn Gislason; Bryndis Benediktsdottir; Vivi Schlünssen; Rain Jõgi; Deborah Jarvis; Eva Lindberg


BMC Pulm Med. 2018;18(152) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Background: The aim of this investigation was to study change in adults over a 20 year period in the prevalence of respiratory symptoms and disorders and its association to year of birth, life style and sleep related variables.

Method: Adults 20–44 years of age, 6085 women and 5184 men, were randomly selected from seven centres in Northern Europe and followed for 20 years. The number of participants in the first survey was 21,595 and 11,269 participated in all three surveys. The participants were divided into three birth cohorts: 1944–1955, 1956–1965 and 1966–1975.

Results: During the 20 year period the prevalence of wheeze decreased (− 2%) and the prevalence of asthma (+ 4%) and allergic rhinitis (+ 5%) increased, whereas the prevalence of nocturnal respiratory symptoms was relatively unchanged. The increase in allergic rhinitis was largest in those born 1966 to 1975 except in Estonia. There was large decrease in smoking (− 20%), increase in obesity (+ 7%) and snoring (+ 6%) during the study period. Smoking, obesity, snoring and nocturnal gastroesophageal reflux (nGER) were related to a higher risk of all symptoms. Obesity, snoring and nGER were also independently related to asthma.

Conclusion: We conclude that as our participants got older there was a decrease in wheeze, no change in nocturnal symptoms and an increase in reported asthma and allergic rhinitis. These changes in prevalence are probably related to a decrease in smoking being counteracted by an increase in allergy, obesity and sleep related disorders.