Childhood asthma is associated with an increased risk of respiratory disease-related hospital admissions and death but not all-cause mortality in adulthood, according to study results published in Respiratory Medicine.

Asthma is a leading childhood chronic disease, and reduced lung function is a predictor for all-cause mortality in later life. However, few studies have been conducted to evaluate the long-term effects of childhood asthma. Thus, researchers examined the associations of childhood asthma and the occurrence of respiratory events and all-cause mortality in adulthood in a cohort of 4430 children aged up to 17 years who were included in the Busselton Health Study in Western Australia between 1967 and 1983.

Participants were followed until 2014 for respiratory disease-related events (hospital admissions or death) and all-cause mortality, and a subgroup of 2153 participants who reattended a survey in young adulthood was also analyzed.

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Of the cohort, 10% (n=462) had childhood asthma and during follow-up, 791 participants experienced a respiratory event, and 140 participants died. Childhood asthma was associated with an increased risk of respiratory events in adulthood (P <.0001), even after adjusting for adult-onset asthma, forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1), body mass index, smoking, dusty job, hay fever, and respiratory symptoms (adjusted hazard ratio, 1.68; 95% CI, 1.06-2.64; P =.0247). However, childhood asthma was not related to all-cause mortality in adulthood (P =.7821).   

“Children with asthma are at increased risk of respiratory disease-related events (hospitalization or death) but not all-cause mortality in adulthood,” the study authors concluded. “Future research should examine the dose-response relationship and adequate treatment of childhood asthma on specific respiratory morbidities beyond fixed airflow obstruction (COPD).”


Christopher ACM, Knuiman MW, Murray K, Divitini ML, Musk AWB, James AL. Childhood asthma increases respiratory morbidity, but not all-cause mortality in adulthood: the Busselton Health Study. Respir Med. Published online July 27, 2020. doi:10.1016/j.rmed.2020.106095