Risk factors for severe adult-onset asthma: a multi-factor approach

Sanna Toppila-Salmi, Riikka Lemmetyinen, Sebastien Chanoine, Jussi Karjalainen, Juha Pekkanen, Jean Bousquet, Valérie Siroux

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Background: The aim was to identify risk factors for severe adult-onset asthma. Methods: We used data from a population-based sample (Adult Asthma in Finland) of 1350 patients with adult-onset asthma (age range 31–93 years) from Finnish national registers. Severe asthma was defined as self-reported severe asthma and asthma symptoms causing much harm and regular impairment and ≥ 1 oral corticosteroid course/year or regular oral corticosteroids or waking up in the night due to asthma symptoms/wheezing ≥ a few times/month. Sixteen covariates covering several domains (personal characteristics, education, lifestyle, early-life factors, asthma characteristics and multiple morbidities) were selected based on the literature and were studied in association with severe asthma using logistic regressions. Results: The study population included 100 (7.4%) individuals with severe asthma. In a univariate analysis, severe asthma was associated with male sex, age, a low education level, no professional training, ever smoking, ≥ 2 siblings, ≥ 1 chronic comorbidity and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID)-exacerbated respiratory disease (NERD) (p < 0.05), and trends for association (p < 0.2) were observed for severe childhood infection, the presence of chronic rhinosinusitis with nasal polyps, and being the 1st child. The 10 variables (being a 1st child was removed due to multicollinearity) were thus entered in a multivariate regression model, and severe asthma was significantly associated with male sex (OR [95% CI] = 1.96 [1.16–3.30]), ever smoking (1.98 [1.11–3.52]), chronic comorbidities (2.68 [1.35–5.31]), NERD (3.29 [1.75–6.19]), and ≥ 2 siblings (2.51 [1.17–5.41]). There was a dose–response effect of the total sum of these five factors on severe asthma (OR [95% CI] = 2.30 [1.81–2.93] for each one-unit increase in the score). Conclusions: Male sex, smoking, NERD, comorbidities, and ≥ 2 siblings were independent risk factors for self-reported severe asthma. The effects of these factors seem to be cumulative; each additional risk factor gradually increases the risk of severe asthma.

Original languageEnglish
Article number214
JournalBmc Pulmonary Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Acetylsalicylic acid
  • Allergy
  • Asthma
  • Epidemiology
  • Sinusitis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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