COPD is more common in older people, especially those aged 65 years and older. COPD prevalence is highest in the World Health Organization region of the Americas and lowest in the South-East Asia and Western Pacific regions. The pooled global prevalence is 15.7% in men and 9.93% in women.[7] The prevalence of COPD in the US is estimated at 14%.[8]

Deaths from COPD have increased by 23% since 1990 and COPD is projected to be the third leading cause of death in the world in 2020.[1][9][10] This is because of the expanding epidemic of smoking and ageing of the world population and reduced mortality from other causes of death such as cardiovascular disease.[1][11] Mortality rates in men exceed mortality rates in women.[10]

An international study reported that the prevalence of COPD in never-smokers is 12.2%.[12] This may be due to air pollution or indoor burning of solid fuels in low and middle income countries. In the US, the prevalence of COPD in never-smokers is 2.2%. Many of these cases are attributed to workplace exposures.[13]

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