Asthma kills 130 Kiwis a year

More people are admitted to hospital because of asthma when electricity prices increase, new research shows.

University of Canterbury PhD student Rachel Webb found that there were more admissions to hospital because of asthma when people reduced their home heating to cope with rising power prices.

The relationship between hospital admissions and electricity prices was stronger for young children than for the general population, the research found.

Economics and finance researcher Andrea Menclova, who supervised Webb's study, said New Zealand had one of the highest rates of asthma among developed countries.

About 130 Kiwis died from an asthma attack each year.

"Our results suggest that there is a highly significant relationship between the lack of home heating and asthma hospital admissions,'' Menclova said.

"These findings may have important implications for public health policy."

Asthma was believed to cost the country $125 million a year in direct medical costs, and $700m a year indirectly.

South Canterbury consistently had the highest asthma admission rates, while the Auckland and Waitemata districts had the lowest, Menclova said.

''If people adjust to higher electricity prices by improving the efficiency of their home heating, allowing them to have increased heating for the same cost, this should improve asthma symptoms and lower the number of asthma admissions."

She said more work was needed to investigate the link between asthma and indoor heating for the country's young schoolchildren.

"The incentive of a school to save on electricity by reducing heating is presumably less direct than at home,'' she said.

''School terms, in particular the start of the school year, have a well-documented effect on asthma hospital admissions."

The Press