Potential Limited: The economic cost of uncontrolled asthma


This report aims to explore the economic impact on patients from being unable to control their asthma – in particular through lower earnings and more limited opportunities to work and study.

Our research, commissioned by Sanofi, found that people with uncontrolled asthma are on average financially worse off, earning around £3,000 less per year than the average adult. Beyond the personal impact, the report estimates that every year, the condition is linked to a massive £2bn loss to the UK economy due to lower pay.

Potential Limited also found that patients with the condition are 10% less likely to be in work (52%) than the average person (62%), and that this lower participation in the labour market is linked to an additional £2.5bn annual loss to the economy.

The report estimates that, every year, uncontrolled asthma in the UK is linked to:

  • Taxpayer revenues being £1bn lower than they otherwise would have been.
  • A cost of £200m to employers due to time off work.
  • Direct costs to the UK benefits system of £370m, primarily through supporting people prevented from working due to asthma.
  • Direct costs to the NHS and devolved health services of at least £125m from around 87,000 emergency hospital admissions from asthma.

We are calling for the government to establish a cross-departmental task force of ministers, working with NHS England, to examine the root causes of inequality in pay and job prospects specifically for people with uncontrolled asthma.

Kitty Ussher, Chief Economic Advisor at Demos and co-author of the report, said:

“It goes without saying that people with a disability often find it harder to engage in the world of work. Today, for the first time, we can put a figure on the loss of income that they suffer as a result, and estimate the total cost this places on the UK economy. Successive governments have paid lip service to the idea that people with disabilities should have the same opportunities as everyone else. What’s new about this research is that it shows the financial cost, for households, taxpayers and the economy, of not taking the necessary action to make that commitment real. 

“Whilst our analysis has been undertaken specifically for people with a main health condition of uncontrolled asthma that affects their work, the same approach can be applied to any broad category of disability. We now urge the government to build on our approach and publish their own estimates of the economic benefits that would flow when everyone has the support they need to participate fully in the labour market. By quantifying the cost of inaction, today’s research makes an even stronger case for change.”

Read the full report.