Date: 15 Mar 2007

Air pollution, socioeconomic position, and emergency hospital visits for asthma in Seoul, Korea

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Some epidemiological literature has observed that air pollution effects on health differed across regional or individual socioeconomic position. This study evaluated whether regional and individual socioeconomic position, as indicated by health insurance premiums, modified the effect of air pollution on hospital visits for asthma.


Effects of ambient air pollutants (particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and ozone) on 92,535 emergency out-patient hospital visits for asthma in Seoul, Korea during 2002 were estimated using case-crossover analysis, adjusting for time trend, weather conditions, and seasonality. Next, interactions between air pollutants and Korean National Health Insurance premium (1) for the individual patient and (2) averaged across the patient’s residence district, were entered, first singly then jointly, in the models.


Relative risks of emergency outpatient hospital visits were all positively and significantly associated with interquartile increases for selected lags for all air pollutants. In the regression model with interaction terms for both individual premium and regional-average premium, associations with all five-air pollutants ranged from 1.03 to 1.09 times higher among the lowest premium districts compared to the highest premium districts. Of all the pollutants, nitrogen dioxide showed the strongest associations in lower premium districts compared to the higher premium districts. Individual socioeconomic position did not modify the associations in either the single or joint interaction models.


In Seoul, community but not individual socioeconomic conditions modified risk of asthma hospital visits on high air pollution days.