Subscribe to Research Article | IHME

Publication date: 
June 1, 2020


Previous attempts to characterise the burden of chronic respiratory diseases have focused only on specific disease conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma. In this study, we aimed to characterise the burden of chronic respiratory diseases globally, providing a comprehensive and up-to-date analysis on geographical and time trends from 1990 to 2017.


Using data from the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study (GBD) 2017, we estimated the prevalence, morbidity, and mortality attributable to chronic respiratory diseases through an analysis of deaths, disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs), and years of life lost (YLL) by GBD super-region, from 1990 to 2017, stratified by age and sex. Specific diseases analysed included asthma, COPD, interstitial lung disease and pulmonary sarcoidosis, pneumoconiosis, and other chronic respiratory diseases. We also assessed the contribution of risk factors (smoking, second-hand smoke, ambient particulate matter and ozone pollution, household air pollution from solid fuels, and occupational risks) to chronic respiratory disease-attributable DALYs.


In 2017, 544·9 million people (95% uncertainty interval [UI] 506·9–584·8) worldwide had a chronic respiratory disease, representing an increase of 39·8% compared with 1990. Chronic respiratory disease prevalence showed wide variability across GBD super-regions, with the highest prevalence among both males and females in high-income regions, and the lowest prevalence in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia. The age-sex-specific prevalence of each chronic respiratory disease in 2017 was also highly variable geographically. Chronic respiratory diseases were the third leading cause of death in 2017 (7·0% [95% UI 6·8–7·2] of all deaths), behind cardiovascular diseases and neoplasms. Deaths due to chronic respiratory diseases numbered 3 914 196 (95% UI 3 790 578–4 044 819) in 2017, an increase of 18·0% since 1990, while total DALYs increased by 13·3%. However, when accounting for ageing and population growth, declines were observed in age-standardised prevalence (14·3% decrease), age-standardised death rates (42·6%), and age-standardised DALY rates (38·2%). In males and females, most chronic respiratory disease-attributable deaths and DALYs were due to COPD. In regional analyses, mortality rates from chronic respiratory diseases were greatest in south Asia and lowest in sub-Saharan Africa, also across both sexes. Notably, although absolute prevalence was lower in south Asia than in most other super-regions, YLLs due to chronic respiratory diseases across the subcontinent were the highest in the world. Death rates due to interstitial lung disease and pulmonary sarcoidosis were greater than those due to pneumoconiosis in all super-regions. Smoking was the leading risk factor for chronic respiratory disease-related disability across all regions for men. Among women, household air pollution from solid fuels was the predominant risk factor for chronic respiratory diseases in south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, while ambient particulate matter represented the leading risk factor in southeast Asia, east Asia, and Oceania, and in the Middle East and north Africa super-region.


Our study shows that chronic respiratory diseases remain a leading cause of death and disability worldwide, with growth in absolute numbers but sharp declines in several age-standardised estimators since 1990. Premature mortality from chronic respiratory diseases seems to be highest in regions with less-resourced health systems on a per-capita basis.


GBD Chronic Respiratory Disease Collaborators. Prevalence and attributable health burden of chronic respiratory diseases, 1990–2017: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017. The Lancet Respiratory Medicine. 1 June 2020. doi:10.1016/S2213-2600(20)30105-3.