Study question: What is the prevalence of respiratory symptoms and obstructive pulmonary disease by age, sex, and smoking history in a population aged 70 years and older? What is the association between selected comorbidities and obstructive pulmonary disease?
Patients and methods: A questionnaire on respiratory symptoms and disease, selected comorbidities, and smoking history was mailed to a cross-sectional, sex- and age-stratified, random sample of the population 70 years and older of Bergen, Norway.
Results: About 11% of these elderly persons reported having at least one current obstructive pulmonary disease, 8% reported daily wheezing, and 12% reported significant dyspnea. The only respiratory symptom or disorder to show any clear age-related pattern was dyspnea, which increased through age 89 before declining. Dyspnea, current asthma, and current chronic bronchitis were about half as likely in males as females, after adjusting for smoking pack-years. Persons with obstructive pulmonary disease reported problems with walking, heart disease, and muscle/joint disease more frequently than those without.
Conclusions: The prevalence of respiratory symptoms and obstructive pulmonary disease has been estimated. Only dyspnea was associated with age in this elderly population. Female sex was a predictor of dyspnea, current asthma, and current chronic bronchitis.