Global survey reveals emotional and physical impact of severe asthma

It’s estimated that between 5-10% of asthma sufferers worldwide suffer from severe asthma. Unlike ‘ordinary’ asthma, severe asthma is difficult to treat and to control, and often results in repeated hospitalisations for those who struggle with it. Now, GAAPP have surveyed individuals in four languages across 63 countries, to get first-hand insight into everyday life with severe asthma and to create a practical advice guide for those living with this condition.

Survey responses revealed how physically debilitating severe asthma can be. In the month prior to completing the survey:

52% of severe asthma sufferers had not been able to walk up stairs without becoming short of breath
57% had not been able to exercise
45% had been unable to do household chores
29% had relied on other people to help them
18% had missed work
16% had been unable to do activities with their children

13% state that their normal activities have been interrupted every single day in the last month by their severe asthma. A further 23% said that severe asthma had interrupted their activities ‘most days’ in the last month.

Unsurprisingly, the emotional toll of living with this debilitating condition was also evident from the results.

52% of respondents said they have felt anxious or depressed in the last month because of their severe asthma
49% said they feel that asthma is controlling their life
38% have felt afraid that they will die because of their asthma, while 43% have felt afraid of the side effects of their medication
25% said that they have felt isolated and alone

Though the results are sobering, GAAPP have used them to produce a new Define Your Asthma guide, supported by GlaxoSmithKline, which offers tips and advice on living with severe asthma. Collated from survey respondents’ first-hand tips as well as expert medical insights, the guide offers advice on coping with the physical and emotional impacts of the illness, and on how to speak with employers and loved ones about severe asthma.

When asked how friends and family can support their loved ones from day-to-day, severe asthma specialist Professor Wolfgang Pohl, from the Sigmund Freud University in Vienna, said: “Sit down and ask them. Everyone is different. Some people will need help with lots of things – for others, helping them carry the shopping may be enough. The key is remembering the help they need may change.

“Symptoms can change on a weekly or even daily basis, so make sure you check in regularly. You shouldn’t worry that you’re stealing their independence, by helping them now, you may actually be helping them to stay independent for longer. Let them know you want to help and not to be afraid to ask!”

To find out more, and to read the guide, visit the Support and Advice for Asthma page on GAAPP.org