People with COPD often have other chronic diseases and long-term conditions. These are referred to as 'comorbidities'—two or more health problems that are present at the same time. Comorbidities are typically more common in older age groups.
73% of people with COPD aged 65 and over also report cardiovascular disease
9 out of 10 Australians with asthma report at least one other chronic condition in 2014–15
52% of people with COPD also report arthritis followed by cardiovascular disease (49%) and asthma (42%)
Adults with COPD were 1.7 times as likely to report being a current daily smoker as adults without COPD
Based on self-reported data from the 2014–15 National Health Survey (NHS), an estimated 600,300 Australians (2.6% of the population) have COPD, many of who are aged 45 and over . Nearly everyone who reported having COPD also reported having one or more of the following selected chronic conditions:
These 7 chronic conditions have been selected because they are common in the general community, pose significant health problems, have been the focus of ongoing national surveillance efforts, and action can be taken to prevent their occurrence [2, 3].
Additional chronic conditions that are commonly found in people with COPD, and that can impact on COPD, include chest infections, bronchiectasis (a condition in which the airway walls are damaged and the person has excessive mucus production and frequent chest infections), obstructive sleep apnoea and osteoporosis .
Of those who reported having COPD, 90.6% had at least one other chronic condition while just 9.1% had COPD only (Figure 1). 1 in 5 (20.5%) reported one other chronic condition and over 2 in 3 (70.1%) reported two or more other chronic conditions.
Note: The 7 other selected chronic conditions include arthritis, asthma, back problems, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and mental health.
Source: ABS National Health Survey, 2014–15 (First results and customised report ABS 2016) (Data table).
Among people with COPD:
Note: Proportions do not total 100% as one person may have more than one additional diagnosis.
Source: ABS National Health Survey, 2014–15 (First results and customised report ABS 2016 (Data table).
The development of COPD occurs over many years and therefore mainly affects middle-aged (those aged 45–64) and older people (65 and over).
For people aged 45–64 with COPD:
People aged 45–64 with COPD, compared to those without COPD of the same age, were:
Among older people (aged 65 and over) with COPD:
Older people (aged 65 and over) with COPD, compared to those without COPD of the same age, were:
The comorbidity data presented here are based on self-reported data from the NHS. When interpreting self-reported data, it is important to recognise that because we rely on respondents providing accurate information, the outputs may not always be a true reflection of the situation.
In the 2014–15 NHS, the number and proportion of persons with long-term health conditions is presented as those who have "a current medical condition which has lasted, or is expected to last, for 6 months or more, unless otherwise stated" . For all of the chronic conditions included in this analysis, except for back problems and COPD, the NHS participants were asked whether they have long-term health conditions diagnosed by a doctor or nurse. The respondents were not asked whether they were told they had back problems or COPD by a doctor or nurse. This difference in the questions may affect the estimated prevalence of the conditions.
In order to focus on comorbidity by COPD status, this report did not adjust for age-structure when comparing people with self-reported COPD and those without. It is possible that within the same age-group, those with COPD are older on average than those without, which would make the former more likely to have comorbidity due to older age.
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