The exact prevalence of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease around the world is not known, but estimates have varied from 7-19%. This is largely due to the fact that COPD is an underdiagnosed (and undertreated) disease, because many people do not present for medical care until the disease is in a late stage. Estimates suggest a pooled prevalence of about 11.8% for men and 8.5% for women.
The impact of lung disease is a significant and growing area of health concern in Australia. In 2011-12, about three in 10 Australians (29 %) suffered from one or more chronic respiratory conditions (6.3 million people). Chronic respiratory conditions affect the airways and are characterised by symptoms such as wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and cough. Conditions include: asthma, COPD and a range of other conditions, such as allergic rhinitis, chronic sinusitis, cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis, occupational lung disease and sleep apnoea. Among chronic diseases, the greatest burden of disease is listed as highest with coronary artery disease, followed by low back pain, COPD, depression and cerebrovascular disease in disability-adjusted life years (DALYs).