How Long Can You Expect to Live with Asthma?

  • 1st Revision: Isobel Lester
  • 2nd Revision: Keri Wilkie
  • 3rd Revision: Sophia Bradshaw

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a major noncommunicable respiratory disease which has affected over 260 million people globally in 2019, according to the latest Global Burden and Disease risk summary published by the Lancet.1

The UK has over 8 million asthma patients, with 5.4 million currently taking treatment. According to the British Lung Foundation, approximately 160,000 people are diagnosed with asthma each year in the UK.2 

Living with asthma can have a huge impact on daily life and it can reduce the quality of life. Hence, asthma can decrease the life expectancy. But, this depends on the risk factors you are exposed to.

Causes and consequences 

There is no evidence pointing towards a specific cause of asthma, but studies suggest that genetics, modern hygiene standards and pollution could play a role in its development.  

For example, Yokkaichi asthma is a term given to the type of asthma developed by people living in the city of Yokkaichi, Japan, during the 1960s. The people living in this city had developed asthma from the sulphur oxide pollution in the air, caused by petrochemical processing facilities and refineries.

The Yokkaichi asthma patients were also diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic bronchitis and pulmonary emphysema. This has caused a significant reduction in the life expectancy of the Yokkaichi population.3

Asthma causes occasional breathing difficulties and a decrease in lung function, as the airways of the lungs become inflamed (sensitive and narrower) in the presence of certain triggers.

Many things can be identified as triggers, some common triggers include allergens, smoke, exercise, and infections such as flu. 

The response to these triggers can depend on the asthma severity of the patient. The different types of asthma include: 

  • Allergic asthma
  • Seasonal asthma
  • Occupational asthma
  • Severe asthma - eosinophilic asthma

Triggers can also lead to severe reactions called “asthma attacks”. Asthma attacks can lead to hospital admission and are potentially life threatening.

However, this can be prevented through the regulated use of asthma medications such as reliever inhalers and preventer inhalers. These inhalers can contain bronchodilators and corticosteroids which open up the airway.4

Prevalence of Asthma

Asthma is prevalent in people of all ages, from children to older adults. This health condition is observed in all genders, although a research shows that asthma occurred more frequently in people assigned female at birth (AFAB) than in  people assigned male at birth (AMAB) from 2004-2012.2 

Multiple studies indicate an increase in mortality of people AFAB asthmatics and suggest that more research should be carried out to understand the mechanisms for this gender associated difference.2,5 Interestingly, asthma is also prevalent in cats; in the form of feline Asthma.6

Mortality in Asthma

Living with asthma has several health burdens and reduces the life expectancy of asthma patients. Life expectancy is the term used to describe the average period a person is expected to live. A study has indicated that on average, people lose approximately 18.6 years of their life due to asthma.5 

Asthma mortality rate increases with age, meaning that the older adult population with this respiratory disease is more vulnerable.

A study conducted in Iran showed that most victims of asthma death were in the age range of 80-84 years, though this figure can vary depending on where you live.5

Late-onset asthma

Late-onset asthma is when you are diagnosed with asthma at a later stage in life. This form of asthma is more common in people AFAB, often starting around menopause.

Late-onset asthma is more difficult to control, so it is very important that patients continue to consult their doctor to create an action plan.

Childhood asthma

Childhood asthma is a common illness which could lead to multiple hospital admissions and healthcare costs. If it is left untreated, there is a high risk of mortality.5

Asthma is more common in children, especially affecting people AMAB before puberty, with people AMAB to people AFAB ratio of 2:1; this becomes 1:1 after puberty. There are multiple risk factors associated with childhood asthma; children could potentially develop asthma if they are exposed to cigarette smoke from a young age or if they are obese.5

Fifty percent of children with asthma have a decrease or disappearance of asthma symptoms before reaching early adolescence.5


Tragically, three people die every day from asthma attacks. However, research shows that two out of the three asthma deaths are preventable. And we can be reassured by the fact that most people with asthma who receive and apply the right treatment correctly, can manage their symptoms and get on with what they want to do in life.


How do most people with asthma die?

A study found that cardiovascular diseases are the most common causes of death for asthma patients at 29.3%. The second most common cause of death was from malignancies (lung cancer) at 20.7%. Another common cause of death was lung infection.7

Does asthma shorten your lifespan?

Asthma could potentially decrease your life expectancy by approximately 18.6 years, although this varies on the risk factors you are exposed to. Another study showed that life expectancy was reduced by 3 years in a healthy population.8

How long can you live with asthma?

According to the NHS, most people with asthma could lead normal lives if they are undergoing treatment. The life expectancy of an asthma patient is the same as the average human.

How does asthma lead to death?

Asthma can lead to death through its presence, along with the presence of another disease or medical condition (comorbidities) associated with it.

Asthma attacks can also be a cause of death as they restrict the lungs from breathing in any air, starving the body of oxygen.

Can asthma make you die?

Asthma can be potentially fatal, especially if it is left undiagnosed and untreated.


  1. Vos T, Lim SS, Abbafati C, Abbas KM, Abbasi M, Abbasifard M, et al. Global burden of 369 diseases and injuries in 204 countries and territories, 1990–2019: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019. The Lancet 2020;396:1204–22.
  2. Mukherjee M, Stoddart A, Gupta RP, Nwaru BI, Farr A, Heaven M, et al. The epidemiology, healthcare and societal burden and costs of asthma in the UK and its member nations: analyses of standalone and linked national databases. BMC Med 2016;14:113. [Accessed 17 November 2021]
  3. Guo P, Yokoyama K, Suenaga M, Kida H. Mortality and life expectancy of Yokkaichi asthma patients, Japan: late effects of air pollution in 1960-70s. Environ Health 2008;7:8. [Accessed 17 November 2021]
  4. Hashmi MF, Tariq M, Cataletto ME. Asthma. StatPearls, Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; August 14, 2021.
  5. Rahavi H, Taft AS, Mirzaei M. Years of life lost due to asthma in a population-based 10-year study in Yazd, Iran. Lung India 2018;35:472–5.
  6. Trzil JE. Feline Asthma: Diagnostic and Treatment Update. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice 2020;50:375–91. [Accessed 17 November 2021].
  7. Soto-Campos JG, Plaza V, Soriano JB, Cabrera-López C, Almonacid-Sánchez C, Vazquez-Oliva R, et al. “Causes of death in asthma, COPD and non-respiratory hospitalized patients: a multicentric study.” BMC Pulmonary Medicine 2013;13:73.
  8. O’Byrne P, Fabbri LM, Pavord ID, Papi A, Petruzzelli S, Lange P. Asthma progression and mortality: the role of inhaled corticosteroids. European Respiratory Journal 2019;54(1), p.1900491.
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Wasi Karim

Bachelor of Science in Medical Science (Health Research Pathway), University of Exeter, England
He is currently interning as a health article editor at Klarity. Over the duration of his degree, he has gained a keen interest in public health and research. In the past year, he has conducted data analysis as a summer student at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute and volunteered at a vaccine center in the UK. When he is not editing articles, he is working in the PsychPGxLab and is a BAME peer mentor for his university.

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