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.[9] The prevalence of COPD in the US is estimated at 14%.[10] A 2019 National Health Interview Survey revealed that the prevalence of COPD in US adults was greater in those living in non-metropolitan areas than in metropolitan areas, at 8.0% and 4.0%, respectively.[11] Prevalence of COPD increased with age regardless of urbanisation level.

Globally, deaths from COPD increased by 23% from 1990 to 2017, and currently there are about 3 million deaths from COPD each year.[12] The expanding epidemic of smoking and ageing of the world population, as well as the reduced mortality from other causes of death such as cardiovascular disease, mean that by 2060 there may be over 5.4 million deaths per year due to COPD and related diseases.[1]

Previously, most studies reported that the prevalence and mortality of COPD are greater in men than women.[12] However, data from 2012 to 2013 from developed countries suggest that COPD prevalence is now almost equal in men and women, probably due to different patterns of cigarette smoking.[13] Some studies have also suggested that women may have a greater risk of airflow obstruction than men despite exposure to a similar dose of tobacco.[14]

An international study reported that the prevalence of COPD in never-smokers is 12.2%.[15] 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 such as in the mining industry and in food preparation and serving.[16][17]

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