India’s COPD Burden: Over 5 Crore Indians are Gasping for Air

Indians  are gasping for air. Over 5.5 crore Indians are battling chronic lung diseases.

2 min read

Over 5.5 crore people in India live their lives struggling to breathe as they battle progressive lung diseases. Their condition falls under the umbrella term Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD, and it’s a health burden India cannot afford.

Some of the diseases covered under COPD include emphysema, that leads to gradual thinning of air sacs, according to American Lung Foundation. Chronic bronchitis and non reversible asthma also fall under chronic lung diseases.

FIT traces India’s COPD burden, and why we need to take action now.

Indians  are gasping for air. Over 5.5 crore Indians are battling chronic lung diseases.

According to the latest report published in The Lancet, the burden of respiratory diseases in India is 32 percent of the global burden. To put it in perspective, India consists of 17.8 percent of the world population.

According to the same study, deaths by chronic respiratory diseases contributed to 10.9 percent of total deaths in 2016 in India. Chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD) and asthma were responsible for 75.6 percent and 20 percent of chronic respiratory diseases.

COPD cases have almost doubled over the past 25 years. It went from 28 million in 1990 to a whopping 55 million from 1990 to 2016.

After ischemic heart disease, COPD was the second leading cause of disease burden in India, contributing 8.7 percent of total deaths.

Male vs Female Ratio

Interestingly, according to the same Lancet report, there was only a marginal difference in deaths caused by COPD in men and women.

Here’s a more disturbing statistic.

59.4 percent of all COPD cases in India are caused by air pollution.

This includes outdoor air pollution from particulate matter as well as indoor air pollution from biomass fuels. Indoor air pollution resulting from the burning of wood and other biomass fuels is estimated to kill two million women and children worldwide each year, according to the World Health Organisation.

Whereas for men, besides smoking, occupational exposure to crop dust, dust from mines, chemicals etc contribute to the disease.

In India, unlike the west, 21 % of chronic lung diseases is caused by something that’s in your control - smoking. Wheezing in smokers is an early sign of COPD and will leave you huffing and puffing for air.

It is important to remember that while COPD is chronic and progressive, it is preventable and treatable. More importantly, COPD is not contagious.

FIT is running a month-long campaign to increase awareness around chronic lung diseases. If you have any questions on COPD, write in to us at We’ll get our experts to answer your queries for you. For more information on COPD, call 1800 208 2882.

(This article has been published in association with Philips Respironics as part of our #BreatheFIT campaign)

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