Topics: College of Applied Sciences and Technology, Miller College of Business

November 29, 2011

Indiana adult residents are suffering from asthma in record numbers with Hispanics, African-Americans, women and the poor having the highest diagnosis rates, according to a study from Ball State University.

"Burden of Asthma Among Adults in Indiana," released by the university's Global Health Institute (GHI), found 13.8 percent of the adult population in Indiana reported being diagnosed with asthma in 2010. Ten years ago, the rate was 11.3 percent.

Hispanics are most acutely affected at 19 percent while African-Americans are at 18.1 percent. About 16.3 percent of women have been diagnosed with the disease as compared to 11.1 percent for men.

Adults with household incomes of less than $50,000 had a diagnosis rate of 15.4 percent as compared to adults with household incomes of more than $75,000 at 12 percent.

The growth of asthma is mysterious considering that smoking, the key trigger for attacks, has been steadily decreasing over the last decade, said Kerry Anne McGeary, GHI director and Phyllis A. Miller professor of health economics in the Miller College of Business.

GHI analyzed 2010 data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, the world's largest, on-going telephone health survey system from the Centers for Disease Control.

"Asthma is a manageable disease among adults, and millions of dollars are spent in Indiana annually on it," said McGeary, pointing out health care costs related to the disease were estimated at nearly $56 billion nationally in 2007. "If individuals could address what triggers their disease, we would be able to save money and possibly invest those dollars into treating other diseases."

She also pointed out there may be a correlation between obesity and asthma. The study found that 16.8 percent of obese adults had the disease as compared to 12.3 percent of people not obese.

The study also found:

  • Adults ages 25-64 have a higher rate of currently suffering from asthma (10.3) than adults 18-24 (7 percent) and 65 and older (7.7 percent).
  • Adults ages 18-44 are more likely to have ever suffered from asthma (16.1 percent) than those older than 45 (11.9).
  • Michigan had the highest rate among Indiana's neighbors at 15.8 percent, followed by Kentucky at 14.9; Ohio, 13.8; and Illinois, 13.6.

"The data we have says the reports of the disease are increasing in Indiana, but we need further studies to determine why this happening," McGeary said. "There may be some simple answers. For example, women may be diagnosed more often simply because they go to their doctor more often. But there may be other factors to consider for other groups."