Regular Article| Volume 95, ISSUE 12, P954-964, December 2001

Asthma, chronic bronchitis and respiratory symptoms among adults in Estonia according to a postal questionnaire

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      Epidemiological studies indicate a lower prevalence of asthma in Eastern than Western Europe. This study of the prevalence of asthma, chronic bronchitis, and respiratory symptoms was performed in three different regions of Estonia, a state incorporated in the Soviet Union until 1991. A postal questionnaire was sent to a random sample of 24307 of the population aged 15–64 years. The response rate was 77·6%. The prevalence of physician-diagnosed asthma was 2·0% or considerably lower than in Northern and Western European countries. The prevalence of wheezing last 12 months, 21·7%, recurrent wheeze, 13·3%, and attacks of shortness of breath, 12·5%, were similar or even higher compared with prevalence rates found in the Nordic countries. The prevalence of physician-diagnosed chronic bronchitis was 10·7%, and was higher among women than in men, although the proportion of current smokers among men, 57%, was considerably greater than in women, 28%. A possible explanation to the high prevalence of respiratory symptoms also among non-smoking women may be exposure to environmental tobacco smoke in small, crowded Estonian homes. Diagnostic criteria based on the Soviet-time definitions is discussed as a possible explanation to the low prevalence of physician-diagnosed asthma and high prevalence of chronic bronchitis in Estonia compared with other Northern European countries.




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