Asthma Facts and Statistics: What You Need to Know

Asthma is one of the most common and costly diseases in the United States. By 2020, over 25 million people were living with asthma. In addition, over 10 million asthma attacks, which can be life-threatening, occurred in 2020.

People living with asthma spend upwards of $3,000 more per year on medical expenses than those without asthma. Frequently missed work or school also add to the overall cost of living with asthma. This article will highlight key facts and statistics you should know about asthma.

Woman using asthma inhaler
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Asthma Overview

Asthma is a chronic disease that affects your lungs. When triggered by infection or substances such as pollen or smoke, your airways may become inflamed and constricted, making it difficult to breathe. A healthcare provider can help diagnose asthma and inform what type of treatment may be best to manage the condition.

How Common Is Asthma?

Asthma is very common. About one in 13 people in the United States live with asthma. It can affect anyone, but many people begin to experience the condition in childhood.

Worldwide, it's estimated that 300 million people have asthma. By the year 2025, that number may increase by 100 million people.

Asthma by Ethnicity

The rates of asthma cases, medical care visits, and deaths caused by asthma are higher in Black American, Hispanic, and Indigenous populations in the United States (U.S.).

As of 2018, Puerto Ricans living in the U.S. had the highest asthma prevalence rate, at 14.9%, while Black Americans had a prevalence rate of 10.6%. Though data is limited for Indigenous populations, researchers have stated that American Indian and Alaska Native populations are twice as likely to experience asthma symptoms as White Americans.

Several factors increase the risk of asthma in communities of color. These include access to healthcare, genetics, and increased exposure to environmental allergens and pollution.

Asthma by Age & Sex

More adults currently live with asthma than children. In 2020, 4.2 million children were living with asthma compared to over 21 million adults living with the condition in the US.

Regarding biological sex, the trends have primarily shown that male children and female adults are more likely to be diagnosed with asthma. In 2020, however, both male and female children had nearly the same number of asthma diagnoses. That same year, 13.5 million female and 7.5 million male adults had asthma.

Because prevalence rates vary by sex, often reversing around puberty (i.e., once male children go through puberty, they become less likely than adult females to be diagnosed with asthma), some researchers believe sex hormones could be a potential factor in what causes asthma.

Causes of Asthma and Risk Factors

The exact cause of asthma is not known and varies from person to person.

Factors that may increase your risk of developing asthma include:

  • Childhood respiratory infections
  • Allergies
  • Exposure to environmental triggers (such as wood dust, chemical fumes, or mold)
  • Being affected by overweight or obesity
  • Exposure to air pollution
  • Smoking
  • Genetics
  • Family history of asthma
  • Being born to a birthing parent over the age of 30

Furthermore, experiences with poverty and lack of health insurance increase the risk of asthma symptoms and the need for emergency medical care.

What Are The Mortality Rates for Asthma?

In 2020, there were 4,145 asthma-related deaths in the US, at a rate of 12.6 per million people. Over time, the overall asthma mortality rate has decreased by 41% between 1999 and 2016.

However, mortality rates differ among race, ethnicity, age, and sex. White, non-Hispanic children have the lowest mortality rate (1.4 per million), while Black, non-Hispanic adults have the highest mortality rate (34.9 per million).

Female children have an asthma mortality rate of 2.3 per million, which is lower than male children at 3.3 per million. Adult males with asthma have a mortality rate of 12.5 per million, whereas adult females have an asthma mortality rate of 18.1 per million.

Screening and Diagnosis

When you are evaluated for asthma, a healthcare provider may first ask about your personal health history and perform a physical exam. They may ask questions about:

  • Whether anyone else in your family has asthma
  • Your symptoms (such as wheezing, cough, shortness of breath, and tightness in your chest)
  • Any allergies you have
  • What medicines you're currently taking

Your healthcare provider may also perform tests, such as the lung function test, to determine whether you have asthma. This test allows your healthcare provider to see how well you can breathe air in and out of your lungs. Other tests may also measure whether you have any allergies or inflammation in your airways or if your lungs are sensitive to any triggers or irritants.

Once diagnosed, a healthcare provider will work with you to determine the best treatment or asthma action plan for you. Having an action plan helps prevent and manage asthma attacks and has been associated with a 70% reduction in asthma-related deaths.


Asthma is a common chronic lung disorder. It causes inflammation in your airways and breathing difficulties when triggered by irritants or certain allergens. The cause of asthma is unknown; however, risk factors include family history, genetics, weight, allergies, and exposure to air pollution and irritants.

Prevalence rates of the condition differ based on ethnicity, race, age, and sex. Asthma cases are most prevalent among people of color, male children, and female adults. Overall, the mortality rate for asthma has decreased between 1999 and 2016. Being screened for and diagnosed with asthma by a healthcare provider can help you get treatment and develop an asthma action plan to manage the condition.

12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  10. American Lung Association. Asthma trends and burden.

  11. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Asthma diagnosis.

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By Katie Wilkinson, MPH, MCHES
Katie Wilkinson is a public health professional with more than 10 years of experience supporting the health and well-being of people in the university setting. Her health literacy efforts have spanned many mediums in her professional career: from brochures and handouts to blogs, social media, and web content.