People who suffer with persistent asthma from a young age are more likely to leave school at 16 years old and those who make it to university are more likely to drop out early, according to new research presented at ERS 2018.
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The research also suggests that when this group of children grow up, they are less likely to work in certain non-manual occupations such as police officer, clerk or foreman. Researchers behind the study say these results suggest children with asthma are disadvantaged in education and in their future work.
“Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases among children and we know that it can interfere with daily life and affect school attendance. However, we know a lot less about the impact childhood asthma has on subsequent life chances in adulthood,” said Dr Christian Schyllert, a clinician at Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm.
The research was based on children living in three districts in Sweden. In 1996, all children aged between seven and eight years were invited to participate in the study and 97% agreed. Participants were followed-up at age 11-12, 19 and 27-28 years. By 2015, researchers were still in contact with 2,291 (59%) of participants.
At the start of the study and at each follow-up, researchers noted whether children had asthma. This meant they had been diagnosed with the condition by a doctor, and suffered wheezing or had taken asthma medication during the previous 12 months. Children were considered to have ‘early-onset, persistent asthma’ if they were first diagnosed before the age of 12 years and were still suffering with asthma at 19 years old.
Researchers then compared this information with data on when children left education and which occupations they entered. They took into account other factors, such as sex, body weight and smoking, that could have an influence on education and work.
The analysis showed that children with early-onset persistent asthma were three and half times more likely than children without asthma to leave school at the age of 16 with only basic education. They were also twice as likely to drop out of university before completing three years of study.
In terms of their careers, children with early-onset persistent asthma were less than half as likely to enter non-manual occupations, including clerk, nursing assistant, police officer, musician and foreman.
“This study suggests that children who are diagnosed with asthma when they are young and continue to suffer with the condition as they grow up have worse life chances when it comes to their education and their future jobs,” said Schyllert. “We can’t tell from this study exactly why this is the case, but other research indicates that children with asthma have lower school attendance and this might lead to asthmatics being unable to remain in education. It could also be that people with poorly-controlled symptoms are less inclined to enter certain occupations, especially those requiring stamina, or jobs where they might be exposed to possible asthma triggers, such as dust or vapors.”