This essay outlines the social and cultural factors that may have influenced the increasing rate of asthma morbidity within New Zealand. The issues that will be discussed at length include the latest facts and statistics of asthmatics provided by the New Zealand Asthma & Respiratory Foundation, the characteristics and symptoms of asthma and the socio economic problems that are often associated with the disease.
Asthma, disorder of the respiratory system in which the passages that enable air to pass into and out of the lungs periodically narrow, causing coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. This narrowing is typically temporary and reversible, but in severe attacks, asthma may result in death. Asthma most commonly refers to bronchial asthma, an inflammation of the airways (Marieb, 2001).
To understand asthma, it is important to have a basic understanding of how we breathe and the anatomy of the lungs. We breathe in air through the nose and mouth and the mucosal lining of these areas are warm and moist. This means the air we breathe in is warmed and moistened before it reaches the lungs. Additionally, mucous traps all foreign particles so as to prevent them from entering the lungs, which could cause infection. (Marieb, 2001).
In New Zealand, The Asthma & Respiratory Foundation (1999) has stated that the morbidity of asthma has increased predominately amongst children and young adult sectors of the population, although the reasons for this still remain unexplained. An international study spanning 56 countries revealed that New Zealand has the second highest rate of asthma in the world, particularly among fourteen year olds at a rate of 30.2 percent, second only to the United Kingdom at a rate of 32.2 percent. Australia follows having the third highest rate of 29.4 percent (Asthma & Respiratory Foundation, 1999).
The International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Children showed a tendency for a higher incidence of asthma in more economically developed western countries as opposed to poorer, under developed countries.