Respiratory symptoms and pulmonary function in an elderly nonsmoking population

Chest. 1999 Jan;115(1):49-59. doi: 10.1378/chest.115.1.49.


Objective: To examine risk factors for chronic airway disease (CAD) in elderly nonsmokers, as determined by pulmonary function tests (PFTs), and to correlate reported respiratory symptoms with PFT measures.

Design: An observational survey.

Setting: Several communities in California.

Measurements: Exposures and respiratory history were assessed by standardized questionnaire. PFTs were performed and prediction equations derived.

Results: Significant risk factors for obstruction on PFTs in multiple logistic regression included reported environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) exposure (relative risk [RR]=1.44), parental CAD or hay fever (RR=1.47), history of childhood respiratory illness (RR=2.15), increasing age, and male sex. The number of years of past smoking was of borderline significance (RR=1.29 for 10 years of smoking; p=0.06). The prevalence of obstruction on PFTs was 24.9% in those with definite symptomatic CAD, compared with 7.5% in those with no symptoms of CAD. The prevalence of obstruction was 36.0% among those with asthma and 70.6% among those with emphysema. Also, symptomatic CAD correlated with reduction in lung function by analysis of covariance. The mean percent predicted FEV1 adjusted for covariates was 90.6% in persons with definite symptoms of CAD, compared with 97.8% in those without it (p < 0.001).

Conclusions: Age, sex, parental history, childhood respiratory illness, and reported ETS exposures were significant risk factors for obstruction on PFTs. Self-reported respiratory symptoms also correlated significantly with PFTs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects
  • California
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / diagnosis
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / etiology*
  • Lung Volume Measurements*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / complications
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / adverse effects


  • Air Pollutants
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution