Asthma trigger perceptions are associated with work disability

Source: Respiratory Medicine, Volume 139

Author(s): Kirsi Karvala, Jukka Uitti, Saara Taponen, Ritva Luukkonen, Lauri Lehtimäki

Objective: To study the association between perceptions of various triggers of asthma and employment status.

Methods: A questionnaire was administered to all those adults living in the city of Tampere, Finland, who were entitled to special reimbursement for asthma medication by the Social Insurance Institution (n = 2613). The response rate was 79%. The study population (n = 1657) consisted of individuals who worked full-time (n = 967), were unemployed (n = 197), had all-cause work disability (n = 334), or were retired due to old age (n = 159). Given a list of potential asthma triggers, the respondents were asked how often (never/sometimes/often) the trigger caused or worsened their asthma symptoms during leisure time.

Results: After adjusting for background variables (age, sex, smoking, and professional status), frequency of asthma symptoms, and the use of asthma medication during the last year, any individual trigger identified as asthma-relevant was associated with having work disability (vs. working full-time). The highest odds ratio (OR) was found for vehicle exhaust (OR 5.0, CI 2.2–11.4). We found similar but less consistent associations between asthma trigger perceptions and unemployment. No elevated ORs were found regarding asthma trigger perceptions for old-age retirement.

Conclusions: Perceptions of asthma triggers are associated with all-cause work disability. Our findings suggest that asthmatics have excess trigger perceptions that are not explained by asthma alone. Asthmatics need to be informed that inaccurate trigger perceptions may develop, and how they are induced, because unnecessary trigger avoidance may interfere with work life.