Asthma sufferers from the wealthiest backgrounds are a fifth more likely to be killed by the disease than those from the poorest, a major study has revealed.
For those aged five to 44, the death rate among the most affluent households was 19 per cent higher than the poorest.
One explanation is that wealthier people are more susceptible to a deadlier form of asthma, known as brittle asthma, which takes hold suddenly.
Researchers from the University of Edinburgh and St George’s, University of London, analysed 14,800 deaths from asthma (stock image)
This form of asthma has been linked to higher rates of allergies which also tend to be more common in affluent households due to better hygiene.
Normally death rates from illnesses are highest in the most deprived households.
About 5.4 million Britons are treated for asthma, which kills an average of three people a day in the UK. Rates of the condition increased significantly from the 1950s to the 1990s, and while they seem to have declined slightly since, figures from the Asthma UK charity show that death rates have increased by a quarter in the past five years.
For the latest study, researchers from the University of Edinburgh and St George’s, University of London, analysed 14,800 deaths from asthma in England between 2005 and 2015. Patients were divided up into five groups based on the affluence of their household.
The authors, whose study is published in the BMJ, wrote: ‘One speculative explanation is that in more affluent areas there is a higher prevalence of a less predictable (more ‘brittle’) form of asthma which occasionally progresses rapidly to a fatal outcome despite apparently adequate long-term symptomatic control.
‘These results should be monitored in England and, where possible, tested in other countries using existing international studies.’
The study found that the trend was reversed for adults aged 45 to 74, and death rates were higher for poor patients (stock image)
Dr Samantha Walker, director of research at Asthma UK, said: ‘It is concerning and unexpected that younger people in England who are wealthy have a higher risk of dying from the condition than those who are poor.
‘It could be due to a lack of awareness about the seriousness of asthma. For example, one in six people with asthma do not realise it is fatal.’
She added: ‘We also know anecdotally, that many people with asthma don’t take their preventative medicine or miss out on their yearly asthma review with their GP or asthma nurse.
‘More research needs to be done to fully understand the relationship between someone’s socio-economic status and how their asthma might affect them.’
The study found that the trend was reversed for adults aged 45 to 74, and death rates were higher for poor patients.