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