COPD caused 3.2 million deaths worldwide in 2015 – up almost 12% from 1990 as population growth and ageing outweighed any downward trend in age-standardised death rates.
The prevalence of the disease has also increased by 44.2% from 1990 to a sobering 174.5 million people.
One of Australia’s nearest neighbours, Papua New Guinea, shares the highest rates of COPD along with India, Lesotho and Nepal.
The statistics, from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015, come with the reminder that COPD is largely preventable.
Smoking, ambient particulates, household pollution, occupational particulates, ozone and second-hand smoke explain more than 73% of the disability-adjusted life years due to COPD.
Progress in tobacco control has not been universal and while household air pollution due to solid fuels has decreased since 1990, ambient air pollution has increased.
The study said asthma was the most prevalent chronic respiratory disease worldwide, affecting 358.2 million people and causing 0.4 million deaths in 2015.
Smoking and occupational asthmagens were the significant risk factors, explaining just 16.5% of disability-adjusted life years due to asthma.
However, the authors said most asthma deaths at all ages could be prevented with access to low-dose inhaled corticosteroids.
“Although much of the burden is either preventable or treatable with affordable interventions, these diseases have received less attention than other prominent non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer, or diabetes.”
COPD ranks eighth on the list of diseases causing most disability globally, with asthma coming in 23rd.