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PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles
Non-Clinical Medicine - Pediatrics and Child Health - Public Health and Epidemiology - Respiratory Medicine

Impact of Asthma on Educational Attainment in a Socioeconomically Deprived Population: A Study Linking Health, Education and Social Care Datasets
Published: Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Author: Pat Sturdy et al.

by Pat Sturdy, Stephen Bremner, Gill Harper, Les Mayhew, Sandra Eldridge, John Eversley, Aziz Sheikh, Susan Hunter, Kambiz Boomla, Gene Feder, Keith Prescott, Chris Griffiths


Asthma has the potential to adversely affect children's school examination performance, and hence longer term life chances. Asthma morbidity is especially high amongst UK ethnic minority children and those experiencing social adversity, populations which also have poor educational outcomes. We tested the hypothesis that asthma adversely affects performance in national school examinations in a large cohort from an area of ethnic diversity and social deprivation.

Methods and Findings

With a novel method (using patient and address-matching algorithms) we linked administrative and clinical data for 2002–2005 for children in east London aged 5–14 years to contemporaneous education and social care datasets. We modelled children's performance in school examinations in relation to socio-demographic and clinical variables.The dataset captured examination performance for 12,136 children who sat at least one national examination at Key Stages 1–3. For illustration, estimates are presented as percentage changes in Key Stage 2 results. Having asthma was associated with a 1.1% increase in examination scores (95%CI 0.4 to 1.7)%,p?=?0.02. Worse scores were associated with Bangladeshi ethnicity -1.3%(-2.5 to -0.1)%,p?=?0.03; special educational need -14.6%(-15.7 to -13.5)%,p?=?0.02; mental health problems -2.5%(-4.1 to -0.9)%,p?=?0.003, and social adversity: living in a smoking household -1.2(-1.7 to -0.6)%,p<0.001; living in social housing -0.8%(-1.3 to -0.2)% p?=?0.01, and entitlement to free school meals -0.8%(-1.5 to -0.1)%,p<0.001.


Social adversity and ethnicity, but not asthma, are associated with poorer performance in national school examinations. Policies to improve educational attainment in socially deprived areas should focus on these factors.