Arch Dis Child 89:423-426 doi:10.1136/adc.2003.031112
  • Community child health, public health, and epidemiology

The prevalence of asthma and allergies in Singapore; data from two ISAAC surveys seven years apart

  1. X S Wang2,
  2. T N Tan2,
  3. L P C Shek2,
  4. S Y Chng1,
  5. C P P Hia1,
  6. N B H Ong1,
  7. S Ma3,
  8. B W Lee2,
  9. D Y T Goh2
  1. 1The Children’s Medical Institute, National University Hospital, Singapore
  2. 2Department of Paediatrics, National University of Singapore
  3. 3Ministry of Health, Singapore
  1. Correspondence to:
    A/Prof. D Y T Goh
    Department of Paediatrics, National University of Singapore, National University Hospital, 5 Lower Kent Ridge Road, Singapore 119074;
  • Accepted 26 August 2003


Background and Aims: Over the past few decades, the prevalence of asthma has been increasing in the industrialised world. Despite the suggestion of a similar increase in Singapore, the 12 month prevalence of wheeze among schoolchildren in 1994 was 2.5-fold less than that reported in western populations. It was hypothesised that with increasing affluence in Singapore, the asthma prevalence would further increase and approach Western figures. A second ISAAC survey was carried out seven years later to evaluate this hypothesis.

Methods: The cross-sectional data from two ISAAC questionnaire based surveys conducted in 1994 (n = 6238) and in 2001 (n = 9363) on two groups of schoolchildren aged 6–7 and 12–15 years were compared. The instruments used were identical and the procedures standardised in both surveys.

Results: Comparing data from both studies, the change in the prevalence of current wheeze occurred in opposing directions in both age groups—decreasing in the 6–7 year age group (16.6% to 10.2%) but increasing to a small extent in the 12–15 year age group (9.9% to 11.9%). The 12 month prevalence of rhinitis did not change; there was an increase in the current eczema symptoms in both age groups.

Conclusion: The prevalence of current wheeze, a surrogate measure of asthma prevalence, has decreased significantly in the 6–7 year age group. Eczema was the only allergic disease that showed a modest increase in prevalence in both age groups.