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About COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a serious, progressive and disabling condition that limits airflow in the lungs. It includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. People with COPD are often short of breath and may have frequent coughing.

The condition mainly affects older people and its main cause is active smoking or exposure to smoking, although some people with COPD have never smoked in their lives.

COPD is a type of chronic airways disease, as is asthma.

This snapshot provides high-level statistics on COPD in Australia. More detailed information can be found in Asthma in Australia 2011: with a focus chapter on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and in other publications from the AIHW and the Australian Centre for Airways disease Monitoring (ACAM).

Additional resources for COPD.

This information was last updated March 2016.

COPD by numbers

Graphic for copd-dash-1 in 20

More than 1 in 20

Australians aged 55 and over have COPD (5.7%), based on self-reported data. That’s 310,700 people.


Fifth leading cause of death

In 2013 COPD was the fifth leading cause of death in Australia. In that year 6,462 people died from COPD (4.4% of all deaths).

graphic for copd-dash deaths trends

Since 1970, COPD mortality has decreased by two-thirds for males. The COPD mortality rate has always been lower for females than males. The female rate increased from the mid-60s to the mid-90s, but has decreased since then.



hospitalisations for COPD in 2013–14 among Australians aged 55 and over. That’s a rate of 1,008 per 100,000 population aged 55 and over, representing 6% of all hospitalisations in that age group.

Hospitalisation rates for men declined between 2004-05 and 2013-14, while rates for women were relatively stable.

copd expenditure 2008-09 dash PNG

$929 million

was spent on COPD in 2008–09 (last year for which reliable data are available).

That's 1.3% of all direct expenditure on diseases.

COPD dash indigenous ratio PNG

2.5 times as high

Self-reported COPD rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians compared with non-Indigenous Australians.