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  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a life-threatening lung disease that interferes with normal breathing – it is more than a “smoker’s cough”.
  • WHO estimates that there are 64 million(*) people living with COPD in the world. The exact number is unknown but a study published in 2015 suggests the figure is much higher; the global prevalence is 11.7% (8.4%–15.0%)
  • The Global Burden of Diseases estimates that in 2015, 3.2 million people died of COPD worldwide.
  • In the WHO European Region, this same study estimates that 66 million people live with COPD.  
  • More than 3 million people died of COPD in 2005, which is equal to 5% of all deaths globally that year.
  • Almost 90% of COPD deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.
  • The number of deaths from COPD has increased more than 60% over the last 20 years.

Overall COPD Cases and prevalenceCOPD is the only major cause of death whose incidence is on the increase and is expected to be the third leading cause of death worldwide by 2030 (exceeded only by heart diseases and stroke).

(table reference: see below **)


  • The primary cause of COPD is tobacco smoke (through tobacco use or second-hand smoke).
  • In Europe 4-10% of adults have COPD.
  • The total COPD related expenses for outpatient care (= not in hospital) in the EU is approximately € 4,7 billion per year
  • Inpatient care (=in hospital) generates costs of €2,9 billion followed by expenses in pharmaceutical of 2,7 billion per year
  • The disease now affects men and women almost equally, due in part to increased tobacco use among women in high-income countries.
  • Total deaths from COPD are projected to increase by more than 30% in the next 10 years without interventions to cut risks, particularly exposure to tobacco smoke.
  • COPD is the 5th biggest killer  worldwide. Every hour COPD is estimated to kill over 250 people worldwide.

It is time to act now!

(*) From WHO, COPD Fact sheet N°315, February 2011

(**) Global and regional estimates of COPD prevalence: Systematic review and meta–analysis, and Table 4, Summary of overall COPD cases and prevalence rates in people aged 30 years or more (estimates derived from epidemiological model)

Other sources: ERS Lung White Book, ERS Respiratory Roadmap, EFA