Social Factors Affect who has Asthma

The challenge

The causes of asthma and allergies in children are poorly understood. Rates of illness vary between countries, but we don’t yet understand why this is. Much research has been focussed on biological factors, see the ‘nutshell’ on BiB’s Allergy and Infection study for more on this, and social factors are often overlooked.

What we have done

We have compared rates of asthma and allergies between countries and found that asthma, but not allergies, is most common among poorer children in rich Western countries. If people migrate to these countries from abroad, their family’s risk of illness will, over time, become similar to the general risk of asthma and allergies in the new country.

We also conclude from our research that the gap between the richest and poorest people in a country, and not the average income is associated with asthma and allergies such as hay fever.

Our future plans

We need to investigate the social factors that may explain the difference in risks of asthma and allergies between people and countries. It may be that in a more unequal society, stress and a lack of supportive relationships increases the risk of children developing asthma or allergies.

Noortje Uphoff

Noortje started her PhD at the Bradford Institute of Health Research and University of York in 2012 after being awarded the Hall Dorman Studentship. The research is part of Born in Bradford and focuses on the relationships between social factors of the neighbourhood and maternal and child health.

Noortje has a background in Biomedical Sciences and completed a Master in Health Technology Assessment at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands. Her main interests are in social and ethnic inequalities in health.