Facts about respiratory disease

  • There are more than 40 conditions which affect the lungs and/or airways and impact on a person’s ability to breathe. They include lung cancer, tuberculosis, asthma, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), cystic fibrosis, sleep apnoea, avian flu, bronchiolitis and many others
  • One person in every seven in the UK is affected by lung disease – this equates to approximately 8 million people
  • Respiratory disease is on the rise in the UK[i]
  • Respiratory disease is the second biggest killer in the UK (117,456 deaths in 2004[ii]) after all non-respiratory cancers combined which only account for slightly more deaths (122,500 deaths in UK in 2004[iii])
  • Respiratory disease is the second biggest killer globally after cardiovascular diseases[iv]
  • In 2020 out of 68 million deaths worldwide, 11.9 million will be caused by lung diseases[v]
  • More people die from respiratory disease in the UK – 117,456 deaths in 2004 – than from ischaemic heart disease (106,081)[vi]
  • Respiratory disease now kills one in five people in the UK[vii]
  • Respiratory cancers are some of the biggest respiratory killers – nearly 35,000 people in the UK died from different respiratory cancers (30% of all respiratory deaths) in 2004[viii]
  • The UK’s death rate from respiratory disease is almost double the European average and the 6th highest in Europe[ix]
  • Deaths from occupational lung disease are rising rapidly. This is due to a 75% increase in the number of mesothelioma deaths between 1988 – 1998[x]
  • Death rates from respiratory disease in the UK have decreased by 40% since 1970. Over the same period, reported death rates from ischaemic heart disease fell by 53% and death rates from all cancers (excluding lung cancer) fell by 96%. This drop is however partly attributable to changes in how pneumonia deaths are coded in the UK. If these changes are considered, deaths from lung disease have changed little since 1984 whilst death rates from ischaemic heart disease have halved in the same period[xi]
  • Respiratory disease is the most commonly reported long term illness in children and the third most commonly reported in adults. One in 7 boys and 1 in 8 girls aged 2 – 15 report having long term respiratory illness in England[xii]


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