COPD facts and statistics Illustration

List of 57+ Facts and Statistics About COPD (2024)

by | Updated: Jan 3, 2024

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a significant public health concern, affecting millions of individuals globally.

It’s characterized by long-term breathing problems and poor airflow, leading to severe disability and reduced quality of life in advanced stages.

The following article delves into a comprehensive analysis of COPD statistics, examining the prevalence, mortality rates, economic impact, and disparities across various demographic groups.

This quantitative data serves not only as a reflection of the current scenario but also acts as an imperative tool for healthcare professionals and policy-makers to strategize interventions and plan resources effectively.

COPD Facts and Statistics

  1. Age-adjusted death rates for COPD were significantly lower in 2019 compared with 1999 among US men (57.0 per 100,000 in 1999 and 40.5 per 100,000 in 2019) and among US women (35.3 per 100,000 in 1999 and 34.3 per 100,000 in 2019).
  2. The highest COPD death rates in the US were reported in states clustered along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, with Kentucky having the highest rate at 61.4 per 100,000 in 2019.
  3. The prevalence of COPD varied considerably by state in the US during 2019, from under 4.5% in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Utah to over 9% in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, and West Virginia. States with the highest COPD prevalence were also clustered along the Ohio and lower Mississippi Rivers​.
  4. COPD is the third leading cause of death worldwide, causing 3.23 million deaths in 2019.
  5. Nearly 90% of COPD deaths in those under 70 years of age occur in low- and middle-income countries​.
  6. COPD is the seventh leading cause of poor health worldwide, measured by disability-adjusted life years​.
  7. Tobacco smoking accounts for over 70% of COPD cases in high-income countries.
  8. In low- and middle-income countries, tobacco smoking accounts for 30–40% of COPD cases, and household air pollution is a major risk factor​.
  9. COPD develops gradually over time, often resulting from a combination of risk factors, including tobacco exposure, occupational exposure to dust, fumes, or chemicals, indoor air pollution, early life events such as poor growth in utero, prematurity, and frequent or severe respiratory infections in childhood, asthma in childhood, and a rare genetic condition called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency.
  10. States with the highest COPD death rates were clustered along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers​.
  11. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that results in obstructed airflow from the lungs. It’s typically caused by long-term exposure to irritating gases or particulate matter, most often from cigarette smoke.
  12. Symptoms of COPD include breathing difficulty, cough, mucus production, and wheezing. The symptoms often don’t appear until significant lung damage has occurred, and they usually worsen over time, particularly if smoking exposure continues.
  13. The main cause of COPD in developed countries is tobacco smoking.
  14. Only some chronic smokers develop clinically apparent COPD, although many smokers with long smoking histories may develop reduced lung function.
  15. COPD is more prevalent in older age groups. The 70 to 74 age group has the highest number of people with COPD, followed by the 65 to 69 group, and the 60 to 64 age group.
  16. COPD is most common in people older than 40 who are smokers or have smoked earlier in life.
  17. The prevalence of COPD varies by race, with American Indian and Alaskan Natives (AIAN) the most affected at 10.6%. This is followed by Multiracial Americans and White Americans. The high prevalence among AIAN may be linked to high smoking rates in this demographic​.
  18. The prevalence of COPD also varies by state. New York has the highest number of COPD cases, followed by Ohio and Kansas. West Virginia has the highest prevalence rate by state​.
  19. COPD was the third leading cause of death worldwide in 2019, accounting for 5.8% of global deaths​.
  20. Exposure to biomass smoke, treated pulmonary tuberculosis, and long-standing asthma are significant risk factors for the development of COPD in non-smokers.
  21. Poor lung development and frequent respiratory infections during childhood may be a reason why people who never smoked develop COPD.
  22. Women comprise a higher proportion of non-smoking COPD patients.
  23. Secondhand smoke is a significant contributor to COPD in people who don’t smoke and have never smoked.
  24. Long-term exposure to secondhand smoke, especially during childhood and teenage years, can slow the process of lung growth and development, increasing the risk of developing COPD in adult years.
  25. Alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency (AATD), a rare, hereditary genetic condition, is found in 1 to 4 percent of COPD patients, increasing their likelihood of developing COPD.
  26. COPD development stages are classified as mild, moderate, severe, and very severe based on the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) Guidelines.
  27. At Stage I (mild), the person may experience no symptoms but typically has difficulty breathing when walking the stairs.
  28. Treatment plans for COPD are designed to help control symptoms, reduce the risk of complications, and improve overall quality of life.
  29. Treatments can range from lifestyle changes and medications to surgery or lung therapies.
  30. Medications can help reduce COPD symptoms by relaxing the muscles around the airways, reducing inflammation, and treating COPD flare-ups.
  31. Pulmonary rehabilitation can help improve physical strength, endurance, and respiratory symptoms, while oxygen therapy is used for severe COPD that causes low levels of oxygen in the blood.
  32. For severe emphysema, one type of surgery is lung volume reduction surgery (LVRS), which removes damaged lung tissue. Another option is lung transplantation​.
  33. COPD can affect the mental health of patients. It can increase the risk of depression and anxiety, which can further affect a person’s ability to manage their COPD. This highlights the importance of comprehensive care that considers both physical and mental health in the management of COPD.
  34. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) claims the lives of over 150,000 U.S. citizens each year, resulting in one death approximately every four minutes.
  35. Around three-quarters of COPD-related fatalities are linked to tobacco smoking, even though a quarter of those diagnosed have never indulged in smoking.
  36. Individuals who have abstained from smoking cigarettes for the past month show a significantly lower COPD prevalence at 67%. Meanwhile, those who have quit smoking or indulge in cigars present a lower COPD prevalence at 43% and 54% respectively.
  37. Between 2000 and 2005, the average age of COPD-related death was 76.6 years, an increase from 72.9 years in the period from 1980 to 1985.
  38. Following hospital admission due to worsening COPD, only 7.3% of patients can expect to live another 15 years, in contrast to 40.6% of the general population of equivalent age and gender.
  39. Patients hospitalized due to COPD deterioration face an 82% lower survival rate over the next 15 years compared to the general population.
  40. COPD is found to be more prevalent in women (7.1%) than in men (5.7%), largely because female smokers are 50% more likely to develop COPD compared to their male counterparts.
  41. A study from Denmark reveals that COPD typically develops after 25 years of smoking, with at least a quarter of symptom-free smokers eventually developing clinically significant COPD.
  42. Generally, the process to determine eligibility for COPD disability takes three to five months, followed by an additional five months before the first payment is received.
  43. COPD is one of the most preventable chronic illnesses.
  44. Personal lifestyle choices such as cigarette smoking play a significant role in the development of COPD. Other risk factors include environmental pollution and genetics.
  45. COPD is a progressive disease, meaning that symptoms related to this respiratory condition get worse over time.
  46. While symptoms may subside after a flare-up or exacerbation, these events usually result in a permanent drop in lung function.
  47. Air pollution is another major cause of COPD exacerbations.
  48. Secondhand smoke can be equally as dangerous as smoking yourself in terms of exacerbating COPD.
  49. The harmful chemicals in cigarettes can linger in a room for as long as five hours, so even if you’re not actively smoking, being in a room where someone has smoked can lead to a COPD exacerbation.
  50. COPD is an umbrella term that denotes two different chronic illnesses: chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
  51. These conditions might exhibit similar symptoms, but they’re very different in terms of their causes, risk factors, and prognosis. They can also occur in different parts of the respiratory system and work in tandem with co-morbidities which further complicates treatment and outlook.
  52. Emphysema, often associated with smokers, affects the alveoli, the tiny air sacs that scatter the lungs.
  53. The risk of COPD mortality is higher in individuals with lower socioeconomic status (SES). This is attributed to a higher prevalence of smoking, exposure to indoor and outdoor air pollution, and less access to healthcare in these populations.
  54. COPD patients may be at an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, and other comorbid conditions. These additional diseases can significantly influence the prognosis and management of COPD.
  55. Supplemental oxygen therapy can help some people with COPD.
  56. People with COPD are at increased risk of developing heart disease, lung cancer and a variety of other conditions.
  57. COPD cannot be cured, but its symptoms can be managed and damage can be slowed down with the correct treatment.

Final Thoughts

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) presents a significant public health challenge, both in the United States and globally.

Its prevalence, coupled with the severe, progressive nature of the disease, underscores the need for greater awareness, more targeted preventative measures, and continued research to improve treatment strategies.

The statistics highlighted in this article reveal not only the widespread impact of this largely preventable disease, but also the critical role lifestyle choices, particularly smoking cessation, play in its prevention and management.

As we navigate the complexities of COPD, it is essential to remember that every case is unique, requiring individualized treatment plans.

Finally, these numbers should serve as a call to action for public health officials, healthcare providers, and patients alike to invest in efforts to prevent and effectively manage COPD, in order to improve patient outcomes and quality of life.

Written by:

John Landry, BS, RRT

John Landry is a registered respiratory therapist from Memphis, TN, and has a bachelor's degree in kinesiology. He enjoys using evidence-based research to help others breathe easier and live a healthier life.

References

  • Løkke A, Lange P, Scharling H, Fabricius P, Vestbo J. Developing COPD: a 25 year follow up study of the general population. Thorax. 2006 Nov;61
  • Data and Statistics – Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) | CDC. www.cdc.gov/copd/data.html.
  • World Health Organization: WHO and World Health Organization: WHO. “Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).” www.who.int, Mar. 2023,
  • “COPD – Symptoms and Causes – Mayo Clinic.” Mayo Clinic, 15 Apr. 2020, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/copd/symptoms-causes/syc-20353679.
  • Julia, Nina. “COPD Statistics and Facts in the US (2023).” CFAH, 3 Jan. 2023,
  • “2023 GOLD Report – Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease – GOLD.” Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease – GOLD, 28 Apr. 2023.

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