Photo of a cigarette warning label
Smoking is one of the highest risk factors for COPD. Photo credit Lindsay Fox
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By Matt Hoffman

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma resulted in the deaths of 3.2 million across the globe in 2015, increasing from 2.8 million in 1990, according to a recent study.

The study used the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Cause of Death Ensemble modeling tool (CODEm) to estimate deaths from 188 countries from 1990 to 2015.

Although asthma remains the leading respiratory disease, the study, done by the GBD collaborators and led by Theo Vos, MD, PhD, Professor of Global Health at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, found that the number who died due to COPD increased 11.6% since 1990 (95% uncertainty interval, 3.1 million to 3.3 million).

COPD cases also increased from 121 million to 174.5 million from 1990 to 2015, for a total of 44.2% (95% UI, 3.1 million to 3.3 million).

In terms of the total global disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), the measurement of a disease’s burden based on the number of years lost due to poor health, COPD accounted for 2.6%.

“Deaths from COPD were eight times more common than deaths from asthma,” Vos and GBD collaborators wrote. “Although there are laudable international collaborative efforts to make surveys of asthma and COPD more comparable, no consensus exists on case definitions and how to measure disease severity for population health measurements like GBD. Comparisons between countries and over time are important, as much of the chronic respiratory burden is either preventable or treatable with affordable interventions.”


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