Asthma Facts and Figures

Asthma causes swelling of the airways. This results in narrowing of the airways that carry air from the nose and mouth to the lungs. Allergens or irritating things enter the lungs trigger asthma symptoms. Symptoms include trouble breathing, wheezing, coughing and tightness in the chest. In severe cases, asthma can be deadly.

  • There is no cure for asthma, but asthma can be managed with proper prevention and treatment.
  • More Americans than ever before have asthma. It is one of this country's most common and costly diseases.

How Common Is Asthma?

  • About 25.9 million Americans have asthma. This is 8 percent of adults and 10 percent of children. Asthma affects more than 230 million people in the world. Asthma has been increasing since the early 1980s in all age, sex and racial groups. 1
  • Asthma is the leading chronic disease in children. It is also the top reason for missed school days. 4
  • Asthma is more common in adult women than adult men. 1
  • Asthma is more common in boys than girls. 1
  • Asthma is more common in children than adults. One in 10 children have it. One in 12 adults has it.1
  • Almost 7.1 million people with asthma are under the age of 18. 2
  • In 2011, the asthma rate for African-Americans was 47 percent higher than for whites. 3

How Many People Get Sick from Asthma?

  • Asthma causes almost 2 million emergency room visits each year. 3
  • Each year, asthma causes more than 14 million doctor visits and 439,000 hospital stays. 6
  • The average length of asthma hospital stays is 3.6 days. 4
  • Asthma is the third leading cause of hospital stays in children.4
  • African-Americans are three times more likely to be hospitalized from asthma. 5

How Many People Die from Asthma?

  • Each day, nine Americans die from asthma. More than 3,600 die from asthma each year. Many of these deaths are avoidable with proper treatment and care. 6
  • Women make up almost 65 percent of asthma deaths. African-American women have the highest death rate from asthma. 7
  • Since 1999, asthma death rates have gone down by 26 percent. 2
  • African-Americans are three times more likely to die from asthma. 5

What Are the Costs of Asthma?

  • The annual cost of asthma is about $56 billion. 4
  • Direct costs were nearly $50.1 billion. Hospital stays were the largest part of these costs. Indirect costs, like lost pay from illness or death, were $5.9 billion. 8
  • In 2008, more than half of children and one-third of adults missed school or work due to their asthma. 5
  • For adults, asthma is one of the leading causes of missing work and getting less done. Adults miss more than 14 million days of work each year. This is approximately $2 billion of asthma’s indirect costs. 5, 9
  • Among children ages 5 to 17, asthma is one of the top causes of missed school days. It accounts for a yearly loss of more than 10.5 million school days each year. 4

What Ethnic Groups Have Higher Asthma Rates?

  • See AAFA's groundbreaking research report on Disparities in Asthma Care. It was published with the National Pharmaceutical Council.
  • Ethnic differences in asthma frequency, illness and death are highly connected with poverty, city air quality, indoor allergens, not enough patient education and poor health care.
  • The rate of asthma and the prevalence of asthma attacks is highest among Puerto Ricans compared to all ethnic groups. 4
  • Asthma is 80 percent higher in Puerto Ricans than whites. 3
  • About 3 million Hispanics in the U.S. have asthma. 4
  • African American children have recently seen the greatest rise in asthma. One in 6 African American children have asthma. 5
  • African Americans are three times more likely to stay in the hospital from asthma. 7
  • African Americans are three times more likely to die from asthma. More African American women have died from asthma than any other group.5, 7
  • Sixteen percent of African American children have asthma. Eight percent of white children have asthma. 3
  • African Americans visit the emergency room for asthma 330 percent more than whites. They have 220 percent more hospital stays for asthma than whites. 4

Do Men or Women Have Higher Rates of Asthma?

  • In 2011, 8 million women had an asthma attack. Only 5.1 million men had asthma attacks. 3
  • Women have almost 65% of asthma deaths overall. 8

What Age Group Has a Higher Rate of Asthma?

  • An average of 1 out of every 10 school-aged children have asthma. 4
  • Asthma is the third-leading cause of hospital stays in children. 4
  • In 2009, 1 in 5 children with asthma went to the emergency room. 5
  • Boys are more likely to have asthma than girls. But women are more likely to have asthma than men. 4
  • Adults are nearly seven times more likely than children to die from asthma. 9
  • The asthma death rate was highest for people 65 or older. 6



[1] National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. Asthma. (Retrieved April 7 2015)

[2] Trend in Mortality and Morbidity. American Lung Association. September 2012. (Retrieved April 7 2015)

[3] United States Environmental Protection Agency. Asthma Facts. March 2013. (Retrieved April 7 2015)

[4] CDC. National Surveillance of Asthma: United States, 2001-2010. (Retrieved November 16 2015)

[5] Heron M, Hoyert D, Murphy S, etc. CDC. National Vital Statistics Reports. Death: Final Data for 2006. 2009 April;57(14). (Retrieved April 7 2015)

[6] CDC. Most Recent Asthma Data. National Data/State Data. 2013. (Retrieved April 29 2015)

[7] CDC. National Center for Health Statistics. CDC Wonder On-line Database, 1999-2009. 2012. Series 20. No 20. (Retrieved April 7 2015)

[8] Barnett S and Numagambetov T. Costs of asthma in the United States: 2002-2007. JACI. 2011 Jan:127(1);145-152. DOI: . (Retrieved April 7 2015)

[9] CDC. Asthma Facts: CDC’s National Asthma Control Program Grantees. 2013 July. (Retrieved April 7 2015)


Medical Review August 2015.