A new report examining the hidden costs of asthma has found the disease is costing Australians $28 billion per year, with most of the costs attributed to disability and premature death.
The report, The Hidden Costs Of Asthma, was published on Tuesday by Deloitte Access Economics and reveals the financial and social impact of asthma on governments, carers, employers and communities.
“We have long known that the economic effects of asthma go beyond the direct cost to government. This report quantifies how asthma impacts more widely; on the community and throughout the lives of people with asthma and their carers,” said Asthma Australia CEO Mark Brooke in a statement.
The report estimates the total cost of the disease in Australia this year as $27.9 billion. This includes $1.2 billion of direct healthcare costs, $24.7 billion from ‘burden of disease’ costs including disability and premature death, $1.1 billion in lost productivity, of which employers bore the brunt at $526.7 million, and lost wages for informal cares at $72.9 million.
Asthma is an incurable, chronic respiratory condition which affects one in 10 Australians. It is characterised by wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath and chest tightness of various severity, and can be fatal, particularly in older people.
While it can be effectively managed with the right treatment, research shows nearly half of the 2.4 million Australians affected have poorly controlled asthma, leading to chronic discomfort, increased absenteeism and reduced quality of life.
According to the report, people with asthma are absent from work on average of 2.1 days more than people who don’t have the condition. However, participation in the workforce is no different for people with asthma and those without, indicating that it is not a barrier to workforce involvement.
Brooke said employers need to understand that people with asthma, and in particular parents of children with asthma or any chronic illness, need support to manage work life balance. Absence from work was not limited to people with asthma; carers were also included in the report with an estimated $72.9m in lost wages for informal carers.
“In regard to absence from work, asthma is really no different to other chronic health conditions,” he said.