There has been a sharp increase in deaths and disability from chronic respiratory (lung) diseases over the past three decades, an analysis reveals.
The study of data from 195 countries, published by The BMJ, warns that lung diseases pose a major public health problem, with an estimated 3.9 million deaths in 2017, accounting for 7% of all deaths worldwide.
The poorest regions of the world had the greatest disease burden, while ageing and risk factors including smoking, environmental pollution and body weight also played a key role.
Chronic lung disease (COPD) and asthma are the most common conditions, but others such as pneumoconiosis (lung disease due to dust inhalation), interstitial lung disease and pulmonary sarcoidosis (due to lung scarring and inflammation) are also global public health concerns.
The researchers found that between 1990 and 2017 the number of deaths from chronic respiratory diseases increased by 18% from 3.32 million to 3.91 million.
It is thought that lung diseases account for 7% of all deaths worldwide
The number of deaths increased with age and rose sharply in those aged 70 and older, a burden that is likely to increase as the worldwide population ages, the authors warned.
However, during the 27 year study period rates of death and disability ranked according to age (known as the age standardised mortality rate) decreased, particularly in men.
Overall, social deprivation was the most important factor affecting rates of death and disability, with the highest rates seen in the poorest regions of the world.
Lower mortality was seen in more affluent countries, reflecting better access to health services and improved treatments.
Smoking was the leading risk factor for deaths and disability due to COPD and asthma, accounting for 1.4 million deaths in 2017.
Pollution from airborne particulate matter was the next most important risk factor for COPD, while high body mass index accounted for the most deaths from asthma since 2013, particularly in women.
“As the prevalence of obesity continues to increase at a worrying rate worldwide, weight loss should be included in the management of obese patients with asthma,” the study authors wrote.