- Asthma occurs more frequently in the elderly than is usually appreciated and may, therefore, be underdiagnosed and undertreated. This study evaluated the relationship between asthma symptoms and the degree of airflow obstruction in elderly and young asthmatics. Fifteen young asthmatics (<65 yrs) (group A), 15 aged >65 yrs with onset of symptoms before 65 yrs (group B), and 15 aged >65 yrs with onset of symptoms after 65 yrs (group C), were studied. Patients used daily diary cards, during 2 weeks, to record inhaled beta2-agonist consumption and severity of asthma symptoms. Long-standing asthma was associated with a significantly lower forced expiratory volume in one second as compared with recent onset asthma. The asthma-symptom score was highest in group A, lower in group B and significantly lower in group C. When symptoms were related to the degree of obstruction (asthma index), it was higher in the young asthmatics than in both groups of elderly patients. In conclusion, elderly patients with long-standing asthma had more severe airway obstruction than patients with recently acquired disease. Older patients particularly those with long-standing disease complained less about asthma symptoms. Within the various groups of patients, subjective symptoms of asthma were negatively related to asthma duration.