Background: COPD is projected to be the third leading cause of death worldwide by 2020. The Burden of Obstructive Lung Disease initiative was started to measure the prevalence of COPD in a standardized way and to provide estimates of the social and economic burden of disease.
Methods: We surveyed a gender-stratified, population-based sample of 2,200 adults >or= 40 years of age. The findings of prebronchodilator and postbronchodilator spirometry, as well as information on smoking and reported respiratory disease was recorded. Irreversible airflow obstruction was defined as a postbronchodilator FEV(1)/FVC ratio of < 0.70.
Results: For 1,258 participants with good-quality postbronchodilator spirometry findings, the overall prevalence of COPD at stage I or higher was 26.1%, and was equal in men and women. The prevalence of COPD stage II or higher (FEV(1)/FVC ratio, < 0.7; FEV(1), < 80% predicted) was 10.7%. The prevalence of COPD stage I+, and COPD stage II+, increased with age and cigarette smoking. A doctor diagnosis of COPD was reported by only 5.6% of participants.
Conclusion: One quarter of residents of Salzburg County (Austria) who were >or= 40 years of age had at least mild irreversible airflow obstruction. The high prevalence of COPD highlights the impending health-care crisis that will affect many countries as a result of this greatly underappreciated condition.