“Men and women with asthma differ biologically, socially, culturally and psychologically, which affects their quality of life,” says Rosita Sundberg, a doctoral student at the Sahlgrenska Academy and allergy coordinator at Sahlgrenska University Hospital. “It’s important that we take account of this when caring for teenagers and young adults with asthma.”
Even as teenagers and young adults, women with asthma feel worse than their male counterparts. In one of the studies covered by the thesis, just over a hundred men and women around the age of 20 with severe or moderate asthma responded to a questionnaire on how their day-to-day lives are affected by the illness. The women felt more strongly that they are limited by their asthma.
“There are more women who cannot do the sports they want to, who are in pain and who are bothered by their illness when socialising with friends,” says Sundberg.
Another study covered by the thesis saw nearly 500 adults in Sweden, Norway and Iceland being asked about anxiety, depression and adherence to treatment. In this study too, women reported a lower quality of life – they were more anxious about their illness, found it harder to sleep at night and were more tired during the day. Nevertheless, women are better at following treatment recommendations.
“Taking your medicine is no guarantee that you will feel at your best, it’s a matter of having the right diagnosis and the right treatment,” says Sundberg. “Other studies have shown that adult women can have a different type of asthma that is perhaps not triggered by allergies and which does not respond as well to medication.”
Almost ten per cent of the population in Sweden has asthma. The illness is often triggered by allergies, and involves the narrowing of the smaller airways. Asthma results in breathing difficulties, feelings of tightness in the chest and coughing. Attacks can be life-threatening. The right treatment means that these days most people with asthma can live normal lives.
Title of thesis: Quality of life, school performance, treatment adherence and gender differences in asthma