PURPOSE: Asthma is a common chronic condition that can be aggravated by workplace exposures. Developmentally, adolescence is a time when youth begin to think about and make career choices. Adolescents with asthma should be knowledgeable about how their future occupation might affect their asthma and potentially their quality of life. The purpose of the study was to assess adolescent asthmatics’ knowledge of asthma, their perception of the role of asthma in making career choices and understanding of higher risk occupations, and receipt of counseling from a health care professional regarding asthma and future occupations.
METHODS: Adolescents with physician-diagnosed asthma between the ages of 16-22 were recruited from flyers posted at universities, colleges, and asthma clinics. Participants completed a 31 item self-administered questionnaire that elicited information about their level of asthma control, influence of asthma on career choices, and risk perception of occupational exposures aggravating asthma.
RESULTS: Thus far, 46 participants have completed the study for a response rate of 86.8% (46/53). Most participants were female (56.5%) with an average age of 19.0±2.0 and an average 11.0±5.2 year duration of asthma. 58.7% of adolescents knew of occupations that exacerbate asthma and 60.8% disagreed with the statement that ‘Asthma is an important factor in my career plans'. While family physicians were most responsible for asthma management (78.3%), participants were more likely to discuss the impact of asthma on their career with their parents than their family physician (47.8% vs. 15.2% p=0.001) or with their friends than their family physician (23.9% vs. 15.2% p=0.293).
CONCLUSION: Awareness of occupational and work-exacerbated asthma risks is low among adolescent asthmatics, as is their perception of the importance of asthma in their career plans. Family physicians are most responsible for asthma care, but adolescents are less likely to discuss career implications of asthma with their family physician than family members and friends.
CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: Additional work is needed to develop clinical guidelines to assist asthma care providers in providing career planning and counseling to adolescents with asthma.
DISCLOSURE: Sacha Bhinder, No Product/Research Disclosure Information; Grant monies (from sources other than industry) The study was funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care.