Open Access Research article

Prevalence of self-reported eczema in relation to living environment, socio-economic status and respiratory symptoms assessed in a questionnaire study

Peter Montnemery1*, Ulf Nihlén2, Claes Göran Löfdahl2, Per Nyberg3 and Åke Svensson4

Author Affiliations

1 Dept of Community Medicine/Division of Geriatric Medicine, University of Lund, Lund, Sweden

2 Dept of Respiratory Medicine, University of Lund, Lund, Sweden

3 Dept of Caring sciences, University of Lund, Lund, Sweden

4 Dept of Dermatology, University of Lund, Malmö University Hospital, Malmö, Sweden

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BMC Dermatology 2003, 3:4  doi:10.1186/1471-5945-3-4

Published: 15 July 2003



Potential links between eczema and obstructive pulmonary diseases have been postulated. Previously we have reported the prevalence of upper and lower respiratory diseases and the relation to environmental and socio-economic factors in a randomly selected adult population in southern Sweden using a postal questionnaire.

In the present study we wanted to analyse the prevalence of eczema and its relation to socio-economic status, heredity factors and environmental factors in an adult population.


Self-reported eczema, upper and lower respiratory symptoms, asthma and Chronic Bronchitis Emphysema (CBE) were examined in 12,071 adults, aged 20–59 years, living in southern Sweden by using a postal questionnaire. There were comparable numbers of males and females in all age groups.

Multiple logistic regression analysis (forward conditional) was applied to estimate the association between the proposed risk factors (heredity, self-reported asthma and CBE, nasal symptoms, socio-economic group, environmental factors, age, gender and smoking habits) and self-reported eczema.


The response rate was 70.1%. In all, 1240 subjects (14.6%) stated that they had eczema. In all age cohorts self-reported eczema was more frequently reported by women than by men (p < 0.05). The prevalence of self-reported eczema among the economically active population varied from 17.1% to 8.2% with the highest rates among assistant non-manual employees. However, when controlling for age, gender and risk occupation there was no association between low social position and eczema. Living close to heavy traffic (OR = 1.45, 95% CI 1.25–1.67) and living seaside (OR = 1.17, 95% CI 1.01–1.35) but not urban/suburban living was associated with eczema. Heredity of eczema (OR = 5.77, 95% CI 5.02–6.64), self reported allergic rhinitis (OR = 2.31, 95% CI 2.00–2.68), self reported asthma (OR = 1.98, 95% CI 1.56–2.51) and self reported CBE (OR = 1.42, 95% CI 1.08–1.87) were all associated with eczema.


In this epidemiological study we see that self-reported eczema is a common disease in an adult population especially among women. Eczema seems to be linked to environment factors, obstructive pulmonary diseases and rhinitis.

Eczema; environmental factors; genetic factors; socio-economy; postal questionnaire; respiratory symptoms; smoking.