Relative environmental and social disadvantage in patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis

Thorax. 2022 Dec;77(12):1237-1242. doi: 10.1136/thoraxjnl-2021-217652. Epub 2021 Dec 23.


Background: Air pollution exposure is associated with disease severity, progression and mortality in patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). Combined impacts of environmental and socioeconomic factors on outcomes in patients with IPF are unknown. The objectives of this study were to characterise the relationships between relative environmental and social disadvantage with clinical outcomes in patients with IPF.

Methods: Patients with IPF were identified from a longitudinal database at University of California, San Francisco. Residential addresses were geocoded and linked to the CalEnviroScreen 3.0 (CES), a tool that quantifies environmental burden in California communities, combining population, environmental and pollution vulnerability into individual and composite scores (higher scores indicating greater disadvantage). Unadjusted and adjusted linear and logistic regression and Fine and Gray proportional hazards models were used.

Results: 603 patients were included. Higher CES was associated with lower baseline forced vital capacity ( β =-0.073, 95% CI -0.13 to -0.02; p=0.006) and diffusion capacity of the lung for carbon monoxide ( β =-0.11, 95% CI -0.16 to -0.06; p<0.001). Patients in the highest population vulnerability quartile were less likely to be on antifibrotic therapy (OR=0.33; 95% CI 0.18 to 0.60; p=0.001) at time of enrolment, compared with those in the lowest quartile. An association between CES and mortality was suggested, but sensitivity analyses demonstrated inconsistent results. Relative disadvantage of the study cohort appeared lower compared with the general population.

Conclusions: Higher environmental exposures and vulnerability were associated with lower baseline lung function and lower antifibrotic use, suggesting that relative socioenvironmental disadvantage has meaningful impacts on patients with IPF.

Keywords: clinical epidemiology; idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis; interstitial fibrosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution* / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis*
  • Lung
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Vital Capacity