1. Distress ratings for questions relating to the symptoms and impacts of asthma on daily living have been examined in 40 adult asthmatic outpatients.

2. The patients responded to each item in a 76-item questionnaire by marking a 10 cm visual analogue scale to indicate the degree of distress associated with the symptoms or state described in the question. The resulting score (as a percentage of 10 cm) was interpreted as the degree of distress associated with a particular item.

3. The possible influence on these distress scores of five factors, age, duration (time in years from diagnosis to interview), variability [recorded variability of forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1) expressed as amplitude per cent mean], sex and FEV1 (current and worst recorded in the clinic, expressed as per cent of predicted) was investigated.

4. From correlations of each item with age, 11/76 items were significant at P < 0.05. Taking the results from all 76 items in a repeated measures analysis of variance, there was a small significant relationship between age and distress score (P = 0.048). The direction of the association was negative, suggesting that younger patients were less tolerant of asthma; however, the effect of age only explained 1.5% of the total variance in scores of the 76 items.

5. From correlations of visual analogue scale score for each item against duration, 10/76 items were significant at P < 0.05, but taking the 76 items overall there was no significant association (P = 0.2).

6. The remaining factors, sex, variability and FEV1, only showed a significant effect in 1/76, 1/76 and 5/76 items, respectively (P < 0.05). Taking the 76 items overall did not demonstrate significant effects for any of these factors.

7. We conclude that age, sex, FEV1, duration and variability have little influence as predictors of patients' perception of their distress due to asthma.

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