Underdiagnosis of sleep apnea syndrome in U.S. communities

Sleep Breath. 2002 Jun;6(2):49-54. doi: 10.1007/s11325-002-0049-5.


We hypothesize that clinical recognition rates for obstructive sleep apnea-hypoapnea syndrome (OSAHS) are influenced by comorbidity and demographic factors. Data on medical disorders, symptoms of sleep disorders, and cardiovascular risk factors gathered from 15,699 individuals in the Sleep Heart Health Study were compared. Participants were classified into three groups: those with a self-reported physician diagnosis of OSAHS, those with self-reported physician-diagnosed and -treated OSAHS, and those reporting both frequent snoring and daytime sleepiness (two-symptom group). Among all participants, 4.1% reported two symptoms (range across sites: 1.55 to 7.23%), whereas 1.6% reported a physician diagnosis of OSAHS (range: 0.66 to 2.88%) and 0.6% reported physician diagnosis and treatment (range: 0.11 to 0.88%). Recognized OSAHS groups were similar to the two-symptom group in age, having a sleeping partner, measured blood pressure, total cholesterol, and race. In a logistic model that included age along with characteristics found to vary significantly among the three groups (gender, body mass index [BMI], high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, hypertension), only male gender and BMI were increased in those with physician-diagnosed and -treated OSAHS. We conclude that disparities (especially in women and in those with lower BMI) exist between current recognition rates for OSAHS and the estimated prevalence by symptom report across the United States.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Diagnostic Errors
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / diagnosis*
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / epidemiology
  • United States / epidemiology