A study on the global burden of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) found that COPD prevalence among those 25 years and older is expected to increase by 23% from 2020 to 2050, with the largest growth projected among women and within low- and middle-income countries.

The study, published in JAMA Network Open and conducted by ResMed, projects the increased regional and global burden of COPD by 2050 through an analysis of historical COPD prevalence and data on COPD risk factors such as tobacco smoking, outdoor air pollution, and household air pollution.

The study highlights the disproportionate impacts of COPD anticipated among women and residents of low- and middle-income countries:

  • By 2050, the number of women with COPD is projected to increase by 47% compared to only 9% growth in men
  • Low- and middle-income countries forecast more than a 32% increase in COPD cases, versus nearly a 4% increase in high-income countries from 2020 to 2050
  • Increasing prevalence of COPD in women and low- and middle-income countries is driven by such factors as increases in smoking prevalence and biomass smoke during cooking in poorly ventilated homes

“These numbers are a clear warning that we need to inspire immediate action across industries and geographies to lower the risk factors for COPD while also increasing awareness of the symptoms of this deadly disease,” says Carlos Nunez, MD, chief medical officer at ResMed, in a release. “The disproportionate growth of COPD among women is a critical finding as COPD has not always been as prevalent in women. As a healthcare community we have a responsibility to be more vigilant in screening, testing, and proactively providing COPD education to female patients as well as communities that may not have easy access to this information. Education accompanied by action can have a positive impact by mobilizing people to get diagnosed and treated early.”

Although COPD is progressive, it is treatable, and proper management and early intervention can provide symptom control, improved quality of life, and reduced risk of associated health problems.

While there is currently no cure for COPD, there are both non-invasive and surgical treatment options available, including medication, exercise, oxygen therapy, and ventilation. 

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