Millennials in the UK are more likely to have an asthma attack than any other age group and are getting the worst level of basic care from their GP – partly due to insecure and unaffordable housing.
A study of 10,000 people from Asthma UK found those aged 18-29 have the highest rate of “uncontrolled” asthma, and two thirds (67%) aren’t getting the treatment they need – this means they’re twice as likely to need emergency care to deal with potentially-fatal complications, compared to pensioners.
The survey found 28% of millennials with asthma were unable to attend their asthma review, with 12% saying their GP was so overbooked they couldn’t get an appointment and 57% saying they never received a reminder to go.
“Millennials are getting a raw deal,” says Dr Samantha Walker, director of research at Asthma UK. “As a result, thousands needed emergency care for their asthma last year and were at risk of dying from an asthma attack.”
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Basic asthma care on the NHS involves, among other things, a written asthma action plan, a yearly review with your doctor, and an inhaler check.
Although these may not sound like life-saving interventions, experts say two thirds of asthma-related deaths would have been prevented if people had been engaged with this basic care.
One of the reasons why millennials aren’t getting this is because of the difficulty of getting a GP appointment – this is particularly the case for renters who cannot find secure or affordable homes and move frequently.
“Poor-quality housing may be more likely to contain mould or damp which could also trigger asthma symptoms,” the report states. ”[And] with financial uncertainty and fewer employment opportunities, younger people may also be less able to prioritise and look after their health effectively.”
[Read More: How to help a person experiencing an asthma attack]
Amy Pay, 27, a writer from Cardiff, says she didn’t take her asthma seriously until she nearly ended up in hospital. “When I started to wake at night feeling breathless and coughing, I didn’t realise that these were red flags that my asthma was getting worse,” she says.
“Eventually I couldn’t even walk down the street without stopping to catch my breath. I made an emergency appointment with my asthma nurse who told me if I had left it any longer I could have been in serious danger.”
Pay says people don’t realise asthma can be a killer, “I’ll never forget what it felt like to struggle to breathe,” she adds. “I want other people my age to take their asthma seriously. It could save their life.”
Asthma UK has been campaigning since 2013 to combat what it describes as a “general complacency” about asthma, with many having the misconception that it’s not serious. However, three people in the UK die every day from an asthma attack.
The charity wants to encourage people to access GP care when they need it, and embrace the use of digital platforms and smart tools, such as smart inhalers. These devices track how often and well people are taking their asthma medication – with people accessing the information on their smart phones.