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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 prone to severe episodes of shortness of breath, with fits of coughing. The condition mainly affects older people.

COPD and asthma are both types of obstructive airways disease.

This is a snapshot of the latest 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).

This information was last updated January 2015.

COPD by numbers


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More than 1 in 20

Australians aged 55 and over have COPD (5.7%). That’s 310,700 people.


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Fifth leading cause of death

In 2012 COPD was the fifth leading cause of death in Australia. 5,923 people died from COPD (4.0% of all deaths). 


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


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59,700

hospitalisations for COPD in 2012–13 among Australians aged 55 and over. That’s a rate of 1,052 per 100,000 population aged 55 and over.

Men's hospitalisation rates declined between 2003–04 and 2012–13, while women's rates were relatively stable.


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$929 million

was spent on COPD in 2008–09.

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