BRIEF: Trends in International Asthma Mortality: Analysis of Data from the WHO Mortality Database from 46 Countries (1993–2012)


International time trends in asthma mortality have been strongly affected by changes in management and in particular drug treatments. However, little is known about how asthma mortality has changed over the past decade. In this study, we assessed these international trends.


We collated age-standardied country-specific asthma mortality rates in the 5–34 year age group from the online WHO Mortality Database for 46 countries. To be included in the analysis, we specified that a country must have 10 years of complete data in the WHO Mortality Database between 1993 and 2012. In the absence of consistent and accurate asthma prevalence and prescribing data, we chose to use a locally weighted scatter plot smoother (LOESS) curve, weighted by the individual country population in the 5–34-year age group to show the global trends in asthma mortality rates with time.


Of the 46 countries included in the analysis of asthma mortality, 36 were high-income countries, and 10 were middle-income countries. The LOESS estimate of the global asthma mortality rate was 0·44 deaths per 100 000 people (90% CI 0·39–0·48) in 1993 and 0·19 deaths per 100 000 people (0·18–0·21) in 2006. Despite apparent further reductions in some countries and regions of the world, there was no appreciable change in global asthma mortality rates from 2006 through to 2012, when the LOESS estimate was also 0·19 deaths per 100 000 people (0·16–0·21).


The trend for reduction in global asthma mortality observed since the late 1980s might have stalled, with no appreciable difference in a smoothed LOESS curve of asthma mortality from 2006 to 2012. Although better implementation of established management strategies that have been shown to reduce mortality risk is needed, to achieve a further substantive reduction in global asthma mortality novel strategies will also be required.


The Medical Research Institute of New Zealand, which is supported by Health Research Council of New Zealand Independent Research Organization.

Stefan Ebmeier, BMBCh, Darmiga Thayabaran, BMBCh, Irene Braithwaite, PhD, Clément Bénamara, MSc, Prof Mark Weatherall, MBChB, Prof Richard Beasley, DSc

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