First Ever Report of State-Level COPD Prevalence

(December 3, 2012)

2011 was the first year ever that the CDC collected data on COPD across all 50 states via the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). The BRFSS is a state-based system of telephone-based health surveys that collects information on health risk behaviors, preventive health practices, and health care access primarily related to chronic disease and injury. For many states, the BRFSS is the only available source of timely, accurate data on health-related behaviors.
The BRFSS for 2011 found the age-adjusted prevalence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) varies considerably within the United States, from less than 4 percent of the population in Washington and Minnesota to more than 9 percent in Alabama and Kentucky.   These prevalence rates are just some of the COPD data available on a state-by-state level. 

Other nationwide results for COPD included:

  • Women were more likely to report COPD than men (6.7 percent vs. 5.2 percent)
  • Prevalence was lower among homemakers, students, and the employed than among those who were unable to work, unemployed, or retired
  • Prevalence decreased as income increased (from 9.9 percent among those making  less than $25,000 a year to 2.8 percent among those making  more than $75,000)
  • 36.4 percent of those reporting COPD were former smokers
  • 38.7 percent of those reporting COPD continued to smoke
  • 43.7 percent of those reporting COPD had a history of asthma

In addition to the nationwide prevalence data, state-specific surveys asked additional questions related to diagnosis and quality of life of those reporting COPD.

Results from the more detailed surveys included:

  • 71.4 percent of those reporting COPD were diagnosed via spirometry 
  • 62.5 percent felt that symptoms adversely affected their quality of life
  • 50.9 percent were taking at least one daily medication to manage their COPD, with rates of medication usage increasing with age

The findings illustrate that we all have substantial work to do to continue to raise awareness about COPD, and its diagnosis and management. “COPD is a tremendous public health burden and a leading cause of death. It is a health condition that needs to be urgently addressed, particularly on a local level,” said Nicole Kosacz, M.P.H., an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and one of the lead analysts of the data.

The COPD data from the BRFSS survey appeared in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report available online.