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At least one in 10 adults suffers from COPD but mortality rates declining

March 22, 2010 Toronto

The number of adults over 35-years-old diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) has increased 64.8 per cent from 1996 to 2007 according to new research conducted at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES). COPD is a chronic, progressive respiratory disease that is incurable but can be prevented and improved with treatment. More than 700,000 Ontarians over 35 live with this disease, that’s 10 per cent of Ontario’s adult population. But the news is not all bad. Survival for people with COPD is improving.

“COPD has a large impact on individuals, their families and the health system. Despite improvements in overall survival, it remains the 4th leading cause of death in North America and the leading cause of hospitalization in Canada,” says principal investigator and ICES scientist and respirologist, Dr. Andrea Gershon.

The study of the Ontario population from 1996 to 2007 found:

  • The age and sex-standardized prevalence increased from 7.8 per cent in 1996 to 9.5 per cent in 2007.
  • The prevalence rose more than twice as much in women compared to men (33.4 per cent in women versus 12.9 per cent in men).
  • The age- and sex-standardized incidence of COPD decreased from 11.8 per 1000 adults in 1996 to 8.5 per 1000 adults in 2007, representing a 28.3 per cent drop in incidence. Greater decreases were seen in men compared to women. This reflects decreases in smoking rates over the last few decades.
  • The age and sex standardized all-cause mortality rate in people with COPD decreased from 5.7 per cent in 1996 to 4.3 per cent in 2007. This decrease was greater in men compared to women.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first large scale study to examine COPD prevalence over time and document its upward trend. Hopefully in the long run COPD will be defeated through smoking prevention programs but right now it is important that we provide optimal care and services for people with this unfortunate disease,” says Gershon.

Author affiliations: ICES (A. S. Gershon, T. To, A. S. Wilton); Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre (A. S. Gershon); The Hospital for Sick Children (A. S. Gershon, C. Wang, T. To, R. Raut); the Department of Medicine (Gershon) and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health (To) University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

The study “Trends in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease prevalence, incidence, and mortality in Ontario, Canada, 1996 to 2007: a population-based study” is in the March 22, 2010 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

ICES is an independent, non-profit organization that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of health care issues. Our unbiased evidence provides measures of health system performance, a clearer understanding of the shifting health care needs of Ontarians, and a stimulus for discussion of practical solutions to optimize scarce resources. ICES knowledge is highly regarded in Canada and abroad, and is widely used by government, hospitals, planners, and practitioners to make decisions about care delivery and to develop policy.

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