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Epidemiologic studies examining the incidence of respiratory symptoms show that COPD is a major health problem in Europe.

However, it is very difficult to have exact figures of COPD prevalence in Europe due to

  • the heterogeneity of studied populations (general, “targeted”, selected age groups …)
  • the heterogeneity of methods (symptom-based, medical diagnosis & expert opinion, spirometry-based …)
  • underestimation of disease severity by the patients who report their smoking with a sense of guilt
  • anxiety and depression that alter the perception of the disease and quality of life with less adherence to treatment, more exacerbations, and more reaction time when the symptoms worsen.

As a consequence, COPD is often under-diagnosed;  the true prevalence rates and the burden of disease may be much higher than the currently available data suggest (Pauwels, 2000; Wouters, 2003; Halbert et al., 2003).

Estimates of COPD prevalence rates vary widely, from 0.2% to 18.3%, partly as a result of real differences in prevalence among countries and regions, and partly because of other factors.

Some well-designed studies have found a measured prevalence of COPD in Europe between 4% and 10% of adults (Halbert et al., 2003).

COPD is expected to increase from almost 270,000 in 2005 to 338,000 deaths by 2030.

Number of people living with COPD in 5 EU countries -based on the above, the figures hereunder are estimations:

  • UK (1): 3 million – only an estimated 900,000 (1.5% of the population) are correctly diagnosed, the disease kills around 30,000 people a year, more than breast, bowel or prostate cancer
  • France (2): 3,5 million (6% prevalence of adult population) and 16,000 death every year
  • Germany (3): 2,7 million
  • Italy (4): 2,6 million and 18,000 death every year
  • Spain (5): 1,5 million
  • Belgium (6): 400,000 – prevalence of 5 -8% for men, less for women
Latest study published in Lancet showed that COPD is much more prevalent in individuals more than 35 of age than congestive heart failure, acute heart attack, and several common cancers.
(1) British Lung Foundation
(2) French Ministry of Health, 2008
(4) Respir Med. 2003 Mar;97 Suppl C:S43-50.
(3) (5):
(6) FARES: