A large proportion of adult asthma may be preventable, according to the latest University of Tasmania Faculty of Health research.
Based on the Tasmanian Longitudinal Health Study (TAHS), the world’s largest and longest-running population-based study of respiratory disease, the latest research carried out by the School of Medicine graduate Daniel Tan looks at adult asthma that starts early in life and adult asthma that starts later in life.
It was found late-onset adult asthma was highly related to environmental factors such as current smoking.
Modifiable factors related to female gender and socioeconomic status may also be involved.
“From a public health perspective, this suggests a large proportion of adult asthma may be potentially preventable,” Mr Tan said.
“Our results also suggest that late-onset asthmatics are particularly susceptible to the effects of smoking.”
“These findings reinforce the public health recommendation for people with asthma, who smoke, to quit.”
The study also found a roughly equal split of early-onset and late-onset asthmatics in the middle-aged group tested.
Although the TAHS is now a nationwide initiative, Mr Tan said the majority of its participants still lived in Tasmania and its findings were directly applicable to the wider Tasmanian population.
“With over 15% of this middle-aged cohort having asthma, our study reaffirms that Tasmania has one of the highest rates of adult asthma in the world,” he said.
“What we have established is that the age at which asthma first starts is critically related to its outcomes in later life.”
Mr Tan’s research was recently published in Thorax journal, prior to his graduation.
He said the study had been a unique learning experience for him.
“With over forty years of research data and publications to refer to, I had access to a wealth of resources that guided and challenged me in my work,” he said.
“It was also inspiring to work alongside leading researchers on an important study that has helped define our understanding of asthma as we know it today.
Mr Tan and his team will now carry out follow up research to look at the long-term impact of adult asthma into older age.
“This information will be particularly valuable in identifying subgroups at the greatest risk of developing fixed (irreversible) airflow obstruction.”