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National Health Observances

COPD Among Women

November 7, 2021

In the past, COPD was often thought of as a man’s disease, but things have changed in the past couple of decades. Since 2000, more women than men have died from COPD in the United States.4 In 2018, chronic lower respiratory disease, primarily COPD, was the fourth leading cause of death among US women.4 The age-adjusted death rates for COPD have dropped among US men, but death rates have not changed for women.5 More women than men are also living with COPD in the United States.5 

There are several reasons why COPD might affect women differently than men.6 Women tend to be diagnosed later than men, when the disease is more advanced and treatment is less effective. Women also seem to be more vulnerable to the effects of tobacco and other harmful substances, such as indoor air pollution. For example, tobacco smoke is the main cause of COPD in the United States, but women who smoke tend to get COPD at younger ages and with lower levels of smoking than men who smoke. There also appear to be differences in how women and men respond to different treatments.