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Burden of comorbidity in individuals with asthma


Background and Aims — Asthma comorbidity, such as depression and obesity, has been associated with greater healthcare use, decreased quality of life and poor asthma control. Treating this comorbidity has been shown to improve asthma outcomes as well as overall health. Despite this, asthma comorbidity remains relatively under-recognised and understudied-perhaps because most asthma occurs in young people who are believed to be healthy and relatively free of comorbidity. The aim of this study was to quantify empirically the amount of comorbidity associated with asthma.

Methods — A population-based cohort study was conducted using the health administrative data of the 12 million residents of Ontario, Canada in 2005. A validated health administrative algorithm was used to identify individuals with asthma.

Results — The amount of comorbidity among individuals with asthma, as reflected in rates of hospitalisations, emergency department visits and ambulatory care claims, was found to be substantial and much greater than that observed among individuals without asthma. Together, asthma and asthma comorbidity (the extra comorbidity found in individuals with asthma compared with those without asthma) were associated with 6% of all hospitalisations, 9% of all emergency room visits and 6% of all ambulatory care visits that occurred in Ontario.

Conclusions — Asthma comorbidity places a significant burden on individuals and the healthcare system and should be considered in the management of asthma. Further research should focus on which types of asthma comorbidity are responsible for the greatest burden and how such comorbidity should be prevented and managed.



Gershon AS, Wang C, Guan J, To T. Thorax. 2010; 65(7):612-8.

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Contributing ICES Scientists