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Respiratory disease in the United Kingdom (UK) - Statistics & Facts

Respiratory disease is one of the biggest killers in the United Kingdom, encompassing diseases such as lung cancer and asthma. The mortality rate from respiratory disease in England in 2020 was 130 deaths per 100,000 population for men and 89 per 100,000 for women. Diseases of the respiratory system can be especially dangerous for older people during winter. Underlying respiratory diseases caused around 8.3 thousand winter deaths among over 75-year olds in England and Wales in the winter of 2019/20. Approximately a sixth of adults aged between 75 and 79 years in England are living with a diagnosed respiratory disease.

Prevalence of asthma

One of the most common respiratory diseases is asthma, a condition which currently has no cure, but it can usually be controlled with appropriate treatment. Asthma can also result in asthma attacks when symptoms of the condition become extremely bad and this is potentially fatal. In England in 2018, 18 percent of women and 17 percent of men were living with asthma, with equivalent figures for Scotland being very similar. Furthermore, 12 percent of boys aged 16 years of age and 7 percent of girls in England had been diagnosed with asthma. It is possible, though, that children ‘grow out’ of asthma as they become slightly older.

Lung cancer

There were approximately 40 thousand new cases of lung cancer diagnosed in England in 2019, with more registrations recorded for men than for women. The rate of lung cancer registrations has been dropping for men since 1995, while women have experienced a rise in cases. The mortality from this cancer has also undergone a similar decline among men. In Scotland the mortality rate from lung cancer was significantly higher than in England in both male and females.

Impact of smoking

The lifestyle choices of individuals in the United Kingdom are also important in the occurrence of respiratory diseases. In England in 2019/20, there were approximately 410 thousand hospital admissions for respiratory diseases which were caused by smoking. The number of admissions as a result of smoking has been increasing nearly year-on-year since 2010. Around a quarter of 25 to 34 year olds in England smoke regularly, increasing their risk of developing a respiratory disease in later life.


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