Objective: We examined the validity of the 20-year-old established Asian norms for pulmonary function in a contemporary cohort of Hong Kong Chinese university students.
Design and participants: Pulmonary function testing was conducted in university students (n = 805).
Setting: A university campus in Hong Kong.
Measurements and results: Parameters recorded included gender, age, height, weight, standard lung function variables (ie, FEV1, FVC, and peak expiratory flow rate [PEFR]), and exhaled carbon monoxide (CO) level. Subjects completed a questionnaire on pulmonary health, smoking history, and their dietary and exercise habits within 3 months of the study. Data were compared with the established norms for lung function for Chinese persons from Hong Kong. On average, subjects were taller than those reported in the original cohort, on whom the established norms are based; however, FEV1, FVC, and PEFR were lower. As predicted, the exhaled CO level was higher in smokers. Those who exercised regularly had a higher FEV1 and FVC, and reported fewer respiratory complaints.
Conclusions: Our findings support the idea that lung function norms not only differ across ethnic groups, but that they may be susceptible to change over a single generation within an ethnic group living in the same geographic region. Assuming the equivalence of our testing methods and those on which established norms are based, our findings shed further insight into the dynamic nature of lung function, and have implications regarding the definition of normal pulmonary function and its variance over the short term.