WASHINGTON, May 15, 2007 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new survey released today by the National Consumers League shows that American asthma sufferers are not exactly breathing easy these days. Four in ten asthma sufferers understand asthma medication categories somewhat or not at all, and the more recent the diagnosis, the less knowledgeable adult patients tend to be about asthma. In addition, 62 percent of adults with severe asthma report being in fair or poor health, and one quarter of all asthma sufferers report their condition limits their ability to participate in sports.
Asthma, which affects an estimated 20 million Americans, is a condition of the lungs that, for different individual patients, ranges from minor inconvenience to serious health threats. As nearly 6 million asthma sufferers are under age 18, it is the most common chronic childhood disease. NCL commissioned Harris Interactive to probe into the asthma sufferer experience, researching depth of knowledge, effects of symptoms, and degree to which treatment is being pursued. The results are nothing short of troubling.
The survey of 1,105 adults, made up of both asthma patients and parents of child sufferers, reveals that many asthma sufferers are experiencing troubling asthma. It sheds light on a disconnect between how patients rate their asthma condition and the severity of specific symptoms, and reveals differences in symptoms, treatment and information-seeking among various demographic populations. More in-depth analysis of the following highlights is available at NCL's Web site, where the nonprofit organization has also posted materials for consumers in its new "Live Well with Asthma" section. (http://www.nclnet.org/asthma)
"Asthma is a highly personal, challenging con dition that non-sufferers may not even be able to fathom. It's an overwhelming, isolating disease that requires heavy patient involvement and medication management," said NCL President Linda Golodner. "It is our hope that our new consumer materials will help asthma sufferers live well with their asthma."
Major Findings Asthmatics: A Vulnerable Population -- Exposure to triggers. About a third of adult (29 percent) and parents of child sufferers (35 percent) report living in a household with at least one smoker. -- Lack of guidance. Nearly two-in-ten (17 percent) parents of child sufferers and one-in-ten (10 percent) adult sufferers who have a medical professional currently managing their asthma, do not have an asthma treatment plan. * More than two-in-ten adult sufferers (22 percent) have not received any information at all about lifestyle changes they can make to improve their asthma condition. -- General Health. 62 percent of adults with severe asthma report being in fair or poor health.
Severity of Symptoms: Perceptions vs. Reality
There seems to be a disconnect between how adult or parents of child asthma sufferers describe the severity of their or their child's asthma and the frequency or severity of symptoms asked of respondents:
-- While 88 percent of adult asthma sufferers indicate their asthma is moderate or mild, at least one-quarter of adult sufferers report experiencing shortness of breath (29 percent), coughing (28 percent), and difficulty falling or staying asleep (28 percent) on a weekly basis. Additionally, 31 percent of adults report having a flare up within the last week. -- Similarly, 90 percent of parents report their child's asthma as mild or moderate, but nearly 20 percent report their child has very severe or extremely severe coughing (20 percent), difficulty breathing (19 percent), wheezing (18 percent), tightness in chest (18 percent) and difficulty falling or staying asleep (19 percent). -- The perceived mild symptoms may translate into underdosing: of those taking less than the prescribed dose of their fast-acting inhalers during a flare up, more than six-in-ten parents of child (67 percent) and adult sufferers (61 percent) do so because they do not feel their flare up is severe enough. Medication Use -- Overdosing. Of those asthma sufferers who report taking more of their fast acting inhaler than prescribed, more than half (51 percent) do so because the prescribed dose took too long. -- Switching medications. Nearly half of asthma sufferers (43 percent) have switched controller medications. Almost a quarter (23 percent) switched because they heard about a better controller medication.
Asthma's Impact on Lifestyle
According to adult asthmatics and parents of child sufferers, asthma is a condition that limits activities and affects job and school performance.
-- One-quarter (26 percent) of all asthma sufferers report asthma limits their ability to participate in sports. -- About one-in-ten of all asthma sufferers report that their asthma impacts certain aspects of their work and school performance
Parents: A Protective Group
Comparing the experiences of adult sufferers with parents of child sufferers reveals a greater level of involvement, concern and anxiety on the part of parents, who may feel they are advocates for their child's health.
-- Parents of child sufferers (34 percent) are more likely to contact their physician than adults (11 percent) when they have questions between doctor visits. -- Parents describe their child as having mild (46 percent) or moderate asthma (44 per cent), which is very much under control or completely under control (75 percent). However, nearly 20 percent experience some very severe symptoms, and 35 percent report their child experiences asthma-related symptoms year-round. -- Parents are more likely to seek all types of information about asthma than adult sufferers, and parents of child sufferers are more likely to make lifestyle changes because of their asthma than are adult asthmatics. -- 63 percent of parents say they understand their children's condition very or extremely well (compared with 57 percent of adults), but only 17 percent report that their child currently uses a Peak Flow meter.
Minority Populations: Black and Hispanic Experiences
Hispanic and Black asthma sufferers tend to have more severe and frequent symptoms and a generally negative attitude toward their asthma condition than other asthma sufferers; however, they are also more avid seekers of information to help them better manage their asthma.
-- Overdosing. While eight-in-ten (81 percent) asthma sufferers take the indicated dose of their fast-acting inhaler medication, Hispanic and Black adults (23 percent each) and adult sufferers with severe asthma (40 percent) tend to take more than indicated. -- Frequency of symptoms. Hispanic (13 percent, 11 percent) and Black (21 percent, 8 percent) adults and parents of child sufferers are more likely to report experiencing asthma-related symptoms, such as wheezing, on a weekly basis (4-7 days a week) compared to other (5 percent, 1 percent) adults and parents of child sufferers. -- Severity of symptoms. Hispanic (19 percent, 12 percent) and Black (23 percent, 11 percent) adults and parents of child sufferers tend to have more severe asthma-related symptoms than other (8 percent, 9 percent) adults and parents of child sufferers. -- Emotional anxiety. Hispanic (19 percent, 16 percent) and Black (23 percent, 16 percent) adults and parents of child sufferers are more likely to report experiencing a great deal of emotional upset or anxiety during an asthma flare-up compared to other adults and parents of child sufferers (6 percent, 8 percent).
For more detailed survey findings, as well as NCL's new educational materials for asthma patients and parents, visit http://www.nclnet.org/asthma. NCL also offers Spanish-language materials at http://www.nclnet.org/asma. NCL thanks Schering-Plough for its support, which made this survey and educational effort possible.
The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit http://www.nclnet.org.
About the survey
This survey, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of the National Consumers League, was issued online and via telephone within the United States, September 7 through November 3, 2006, among 1,105 adults (aged 18 and over) that are asthma sufferers or parents of children with asthma. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.
With a pure probability sample of 1,105, one could say with a 95 percent probability that the overall results would have a sampling error of +/- 2.97 percentage points. Sampling error for data based on sub-samples would be higher and would vary. However, that does not take other sources of error into account. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no theoretical sampling error can be calculated.
CONTACT: Heather Horiuchi of National Consumers League, +1-202-835-3323,ext 116, firstname.lastname@example.org
Web site: http://www.nclnet.org/
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