Burden of Lung Disease

The first issue of the  Burden of Lung Disease was published by the Society in November 2001. The second edition was officially launched  at the House of Commons on 28th June 2006, backed by MP and Chair of the Health Select Committee, Kevin Barron. A key message highlighted in the 2006 report  was the fact that respiratory disease kills one in five people in the UK and costs the NHS over £6 billion.  The report also shows that:

  • respiratory disease still kills more people than ischaemic heart disease in UK
  • lung cancer still remains the biggest cancer killer in the UK with deaths outstripping those from breast cancer

Death rates from respiratory disease are higher in the UK than both the European and EU average. Only seven other European countries have a worse record than the UK - five of which are former Soviet Union countries with relatively under funded, less sophisticated health services. Data also shows that more women (59,105 deaths) than men (58,351) die from lung disease. The report also reveals that respiratory disease costs the NHS and society £6.6 billion: £3 billion in costs to the care system, £1.9 billion in mortality costs and £1.7 billion in illness costs. Major respiratory diseases include tuberculosis, pneumonia, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis, lung cancer, occupational lung disease, sleep apnoea, scarring lung diseases and many others.   Deaths and illness rates from a number of lung diseases are highlighted in the report: Over 27,000 people died from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in 2004 (COPD is an umbrella term covering chronic bronchitis, emphysema and bronchiectasis) and cases of COPD took up more than one million bed days in England.

Occupational lung diseases such as mesothelioma (caused by exposure to asbestos fibres) are increasing. Since 1992, mesothelioma deaths have increased by 70% to 1,862.

The most commonly reported long-term illnesses in children and babies are conditions of the respiratory system.

About a fifth of children (21%) and 15% of adults have a diagnosis of asthma.

Over 27,000 people died from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in 2004 (COPD is an umbrella term covering chronic bronchitis, emphysema and bronchiectasis) and cases of COPD took up more than one million bed days in England .

Occupational lung diseases such as mesothelioma (caused by exposure to asbestos fibres) are increasing. Since 1992, mesothelioma deaths have increased by 70% to 1,862.

The most commonly reported long-term illnesses in children and babies are conditions of the respiratory system.

About a fifth of children (21%) and 15% of adults have a diagnosis of asthma.

The report also highlights the relationship between social inequality and lung disease.   According to the data, social inequality causes a higher proportion of deaths in respiratory disease than any other disease area: Almost a half of all deaths (44%) are associated with social class inequalities compared with 28% of deaths from ischaemic heart disease.

Furthermore, men aged 20-64 employed in unskilled manual occupations are around 14 times more likely to die from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and nine times more likely to die from tuberculosis than men employed in professional roles.

The Burden of Lung Disease is the only publication that analyses the total death, disability and cost of respiratory disease in the UK . The report was compiled for the British Thoracic Society by the Lung and Asthma Information Agency at St. George's, University of London. The report also spotlights that in 2004 in the community: An estimated 24 million consultations with GPs were for respiratory disease.

Nearly one in five males and one in four females consulted a GP for a respiratory complaint.

More than 62 million prescriptions were used in the prevention and treatment of respiratory disease.

An estimated one million hospital admissions were for respiratory disease.


2006