In the 1980s and early 1990s, asthma prevalence increased significantly in most Westernized countries. In more recent years, asthma trends have been less clear, with some studies suggesting that they are still rising and others suggesting that they have stabilized or decreased. A population-based cohort study was conducted to estimate asthma prevalence and incidence trends in one large Canadian province, Ontario. All individuals with asthma living in Ontario, a province of Canada with a multicultural population of approximately 12 million, were identified in universal, population health administrative databases by using a validated health administrative case definition of asthma. Annual asthma prevalence, incidence, and all-cause mortality rates were estimated from 1996 to 2005. During this time, the prevalence of asthma increased by 70.5%. The age- and sex-standardized asthma prevalence increased from 8.5% in 1996 to 13.3% in 2005, a relative increase of 55.1% (P < 0.0001). Asthma incidence rates increased in children by 30.0% and were relatively stable in adults. Overall all-cause mortality decreased. Asthma prevalence in Ontario, Canada, has increased significantly. This is attributable, in part, to an increase in the incidence of asthma in children. Effective clinical and public health strategies are needed to prevent and manage asthma in the population.
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