We aimed to study trends in gender-related differences in incidence, and prevalence for long-term oxygen therapy due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Another aim was to study survival after onset of oxygen therapy. Prospectively followed were 5689 Swedish patients, who were prescribed oxygen therapy because of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease from 1987 to 2000. The annual incidence of women starting oxygen therapy increased more rapidly than that in men. In 2000, 7.6 per 100,000 women started treatment compared with 7.1 in men. The frequency of ever smoking in Sweden in the age group receiving oxygen, i.e. age 65-84 years, was 36.4% in women and 65.0% in men, indicating that women ran a higher risk of developing an oxygen-requiring chronic hypoxaemia. An increase in women requiring oxygen therapy is predicted due to the increase in smoking frequency in young and middle-aged women and it is estimated that about 70% of Swedish patients on oxygen in 2026 will be women, with an estimated prevalence of 61 per 100,000. In conclusion, the incidence and prevalence for long-term oxygen therapy increases more rapidly among women than in men. This is probably due to the increased frequency of smoking in women compared with men and a higher susceptibility to develop severe hypoxaemia in women. The survival is better in women with long-term oxygen therapy than in men.