Risk factors for chronic cough in adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Respirology. 2022 Jan;27(1):36-47. doi: 10.1111/resp.14169. Epub 2021 Oct 18.


Despite the challenges of diagnosing and managing adult patients with chronic cough, a systematic synthesis of evidence on aetiological risk factor is lacking. We systematically searched PubMed and EMBASE to synthesize the current evidence for longitudinal associations between a wide range of risk factors and chronic cough in the general adult population, following the meta-analysis of observational studies in epidemiology (MOOSE) guidelines. The Newcastle-Ottawa scale was used to assess the quality of the included studies. Fixed-effect meta-analysis was conducted where appropriate. Of 26 eligible articles, 16 domains of risk factors were assessed. There was consistent evidence that asthma (pooled adjusted OR [aOR] = 3.01; 95% CI: 2.33-3.70; I2 = 0%; number of articles [N] = 3) and low education levels/socioeconomic status (SES) (pooled aOR = 1.46; 95% CI: 1.20-1.72; I2 = 0%; N = 3) were associated with an increased risk of chronic cough after adjusting for smoking and other confounders. While continuous smoking was associated with chronic cough (aOR = 1.81; 95% CI: 1.36-2.26; I2 = 57%; N = 3), there was too little evidence to draw conclusions for occupational exposures, outdoor air pollution, early-life exposures, diet, snoring and other chronic conditions, including obesity, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, gastro-oesophageal reflux disease and chronic pain. Asthma, persistent smoking and lower education/SES were associated with an increased risk of chronic cough. Longitudinal associations between other factors frequently mentioned empirically (i.e., occupational exposures, air pollution and chronic respiratory conditions) need further investigation, ideally with objective and standardized measurement.

Keywords: asthma; bronchitis; meta-analysis; occupational exposure; risk of chronic cough.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution* / adverse effects
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cough / complications
  • Cough / etiology
  • Humans
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive* / complications
  • Risk Factors