Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease deaths down, especially among men

Fewer Australians are dying from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and deaths have dropped more significantly among men than women, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The new web-based report provides a snapshot of the latest statistics on COPD in Australia.

It shows that the death rate from COPD in men fell to 29 per 100,000 in 2009— less than a third of the rate in 1970.

The female rate has consistently been much lower than the male rate. In 1970, the male death rate was around eight times the female rate. In 2009, the death rate for COPD among women was 17 per 100,000 people.

COPD limits airflow in the lungs, which can lead to mild or severe shortness of breath that is not fully reversible, even with treatment. It includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

The shortness of breath experienced by people with COPD can interrupt daily activity, sleep patterns and the ability to exercise.

‘Smoking is its main, but not only, cause, and trends in the rate of deaths from COPD generally follow tobacco consumption trends,’ said AIHW spokesperson Dr Adrian Webster.

The report also shows a drop in hospitalisations due to COPD.

The hospitalisaton rate for men aged 55 and over fell 20% between 1998–99 and 2009–10, from 1,545 to 1,236 hospitalisations per 100,000 people.

The hospitalisation rate for women aged 55 and over, while varying slightly over the same period, was slightly higher in 2009–10 than in 1998–99—870 hospitalisations per 100,000 people compared with 835 per 100,000.

There is a strong seasonal influence on COPD, with hospitalisation much more common in winter and early spring.

An estimated $560 million was spent on health services related to COPD in 2004–05, mainly on hospital costs for admitted patients.

The COPD web snapshot will be updated regularly as part of a comprehensive AIHW web resource on chronic respiratory conditions, including asthma and hay fever, available at Asthma & other chronic respiratory conditions.

More information is available in the AIHW report Asthma in Australia 2011, which includes a focus chapter on COPD.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 18 April 2012

Further information: Dr Adrian Webster, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1119, mob. 0434 022 127