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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) statistics

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the name used to describe a number of conditions including emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Emphysema affects the air sacs (alveoli) in your lungs, and chronic bronchitis affects your airways (bronchi). If you have COPD, you might have just one of these conditions, or you might have more than one. Most COPD patients have varying degrees of both emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

With COPD, your airways become inflamed and the air sacs in your lungs are damaged. This causes your airways to become narrower, which makes it harder to breathe in and out. These breathing difficulties can affect many aspects of your daily life.

These statistics on COPD in the UK were compiled as part of our Respiratory Health of the Nation project by teams at St George’s, University of London, Nottingham University and Imperial College London.

Numbers of people diagnosed with COPD

How many people in the UK have a diagnosis of COPD?

An estimated 1.2 million people are living with diagnosed COPD – considerably more than the 835,000 estimated by the Department of Health in 2011. In terms of diagnosed cases, this makes COPD the second most common lung disease in the UK, after asthma. Around 2% of the whole population – 4.5% of all people aged over 40 – live with diagnosed COPD.

Our research also suggests that prevalence is growing. The number of people who have ever had a diagnosis of COPD has increased by 27% in the last decade, from under 1,600 to nearly 2,000 per 100,000. This could mean that more undiagnosed cases are being found, or that the disease is becoming more common. Changes in record-keeping could also be a factor. 

However, prevalence increased by 9% between 2008 and 2012, while record-keeping practices remained the same. Earlier research has indicated that up to two-thirds of people with COPD remain undiagnosed. New research is required to see if this is still valid, and to ascertain the current prevalence of the disease.

 

Estimated numbers of people ever diagnosed with COPD 2004–12


How many people have been diagnosed with COPD in each region of the UK?

There was a higher proportion of people diagnosed with COPD in the north of the UK – Scotland and the North East and North West of England. This was seen throughout the years 2004–12.

Number of people ever diagnosed with COPD per 100,000, 2004–12


How many people are first diagnosed with COPD each year in the UK?

115,000 people are diagnosed with COPD each year – equivalent to a new diagnosis every 5 minutes. In the five years up to 2008, incidence rates went down from 212 to 185 per 100,000. This could be due to changes in record-keeping, or could reflect a genuine fall in the number of people developing the condition. The data contrast with the rise in prevalence over the same period. Since 2008 incidence has been stable, with just under 115,000 new diagnoses recorded in 2012.

Number of new COPD diagnoses, per 100,000 people, 2004–12


How many people are newly diagnosed with COPD in each UK region in 2004–13?

For the period 2004–13, proportionately more people were diagnosed for the first time with COPD in Scotland and the northern regions of England than in other parts of the UK.

Number of people newly diagnosed with COPD per 100,000, by UK region, 2004–12


How many males and females are living with a COPD diagnosis in the UK?

In 2012, about 10 per cent more males than females were living with a COPD diagnosis. Throughout the years 2004–12, proportions of the population with diagnosed COPD were always higher among males than females.

Number of males and females ever diagnosed with COPD per 100,000, 2004–12


How many males and females received their first COPD diagnosis each year in 2004–12?

In 2012, 210 males and 175 females for every 100,000 were newly diagnosed with COPD. Those figures are down from 242 for males and 209 for females in 2004.

Number of males and females per 100,000 newly diagnosed with COPD each year, 2004–12


Ages of people living with a COPD diagnosis

How old are the people with COPD in the UK?

Figures show that people living with a COPD diagnosis are mostly over the age of 40. The proportion of people living with COPD increases markedly with advancing age.

Number of people ever diagnosed with COPD per 100,000, by age group, 2004–12


How old are the people newly diagnosed with COPD each year in the UK?

In the period 2004–12, the people who were first diagnosed with COPD were mostly over the age of 40, with the chances of developing the condition increasing as people got older.

Number of people newly diagnosed with COPD per 100,000, by age group, 2004–12


Deaths from COPD

How many people die from COPD in the UK compared with the rest of the world?

The UK is among the top 20 countries for COPD mortality worldwide. In Europe, only Denmark and Hungary have higher death rates for COPD, while rates are higher in the United States and New Zealand than in the UK.

Number of COPD deaths per million per year by country, 2001–10


How many males and females died from COPD in the UK in 2012?

In 2012, 29,776 people died from COPD (5.3 per cent of the total number of UK deaths and 26.1 per cent of deaths from lung disease).

Of these, 15,245 were males and 14,531 were females. The total number of deaths was up from 28,344 in 2008.

Along with lung cancer and pneumonia, COPD is one of the three leading contributors to respiratory mortality in developed countries such as the UK.

UK deaths from COPD compared with other lung diseases, 2012


How old were the people who died from COPD in 2012?

Of the 29,776 people who died from COPD in 2012:

  • 2,719 were aged 15–64; and
  • 27,056 were aged 65 and above.

How many people died from COPD in each UK region in 2008–12?

England: The COPD mortality rate was higher in the North East and North West of England, compared with the UK generally. In those regions, the relative increase was greater among females than males. Death rates from COPD were notably lower in the East of England and the South West than in other parts of the UK. 

Scotland: COPD mortality rates were higher than in the UK generally, but similar to northern England. The relative differences were greater among females than males.

Wales: The death rate from COPD was slightly higher than in the UK generally.

Northern Ireland: Death rates for COPD were similar to rates for the UK generally, with a slight increase among males.

COPD mortality ratios by UK regions, males and females, 2008–12

Relative risk of death from COPD, by local authority district (England, Scotland and Wales), 2008–12

© Copyright info

Relative risk is used in medical research to compare risk in different groups of people.  In the maps we show the risk of an area (local authority district) relative to the average for Scotland, England and Wales. Here we show whether the group of people living in a particular area have a risk of dying from COPD that is lower or higher than the average. Because of the way relative risk is calculated there must always be some areas above average and some below average.

You can find out how these figures were calculated.


Emergency hospital admissions

How do rates of emergency admission to hospital for COPD vary across the UK, 2008–12?

England: There were higher rates of emergency admission for the North East, the North West and Yorkshire and the Humber compared with the UK generally, with admission rates for females markedly higher in the North East and North West. 

In London, admission rates for males were higher, while female admission rates were similar to the UK generally. 

Admission rates were notably lower in the East of England, South East and South West than in the UK generally.

Scotland: Rates of admission were higher compared with the UK generally, with more females admitted than males. 

Wales: Rates of admission were higher compared with the UK generally, with no significant difference between males and females.

Northern Ireland: Rates of admission were higher compared with the UK generally, with more males admitted than females.

COPD hospital admission ratios, males and females, in each UK region, 2008–12

Relative risk of emergency hospital admissions for COPD, by local authority district (England, Scotland and Wales), 2010

© Copyright info

Relative risk is used in medical research to compare risk in different groups of people.  In the maps we show the risk of an area (local authority district) relative to the average for Scotland, England and Wales. Here we show whether the group of people living in a particular area have a risk of emergency admission to hospital from COPD that is lower or higher than the average. Because of the way relative risk is calculated there must always be some areas above average and some below average.

You can find out how these figures were calculated.


Standard of living and COPD

Does your standard of living affect your chances of having COPD in the UK?

Figures for 2004–12 show that the less well off you are, the more likely you are to have been diagnosed with COPD at some time in your life. These differences are the largest, in relative terms, for any of the major lung diseases.

Number of people per 100,000 ever diagnosed with COPD, by standard of living, 2004–12

Find out how the standard of living figures were calculated: Methodology - standard of living