Chronic Respiratory Disease Mortality Rates Increase From 1980 to 2014

Mortality rates and changes in mortality rates for chronic respiratory diseases in the United States varied by county, sex, and particular disease type.

Although deaths from chronic respiratory diseases have declined recently, mortality rates in 2014 remained significantly higher than in 1980, according to a study published in JAMA.

Overall, there was a 29.7% increase in the national mortality rate because of chronic respiratory diseases between those years. Importantly, mortality rates and changes in rates differed by county, sex, and particular disease type.

From 1980 through 2014, more than 4.6 million deaths attributable to chronic respiratory diseases occurred in the United States. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) accounted for the greatest proportion of deaths by far, and the mortality rate for COPD increased by 30.8% during that time, from 34.5 to 45.1 deaths per 100,000 population. However, the mortality caused by interstitial lung disease and pulmonary sarcoidosis increased by 100.5%, from 2.7 to 5.5 deaths per 100,000 population. All other chronic respiratory diseases increased by 42.3%, from 0.51 to 0.73 deaths per 100,000 population.

Geographic differences were noted. The highest mortality rates for COPD and pneumoconiosis occurred in central Appalachia, whereas the highest concentrations of deaths caused by interstitial lung disease were in the Southwest, northern Great Plains, New England, and South Atlantic. The southern half of the Mississippi River, Georgia, and South Carolina had the highest proportion of asthma-related deaths. Nationally, COPD mortality rates declined 10.9% among men but increased 107.4% among women, although much of this increase occurred before 2003 and rates have been relatively steady since then.

This study has several limitations. For example, epidemiologic data were derived from several sources and may be subject to error, and 2 different versions of the International Classification of Diseases were used during the period, which may have led to false trends. Even so, these data may help to inform efforts to improve prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.

Related Articles


Dwyer-Lindgren L, Bertozzi-Villa A, Stubbs RW, et al. Trends and patterns of differences in chronic respiratory disease mortality among US counties, 1980-2014. JAMA. 2017;318(12):1136-1149.