An Australian study into a serious respiratory condition, known as Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), has concluded that it is more common among people aged 40 years or older and increases with age.
COPD is a medical condition affecting one in 10 Australians over the age of four. It includes both chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
As part of an international project, researchers at Charles Sturt University (CSU) in Orange and Wagga Wagga tested 600 volunteers aged 40 and over in the two regional NSW cities to help identify the incidence and impact of COPD in rural communities in Australia.
“The disease, which is a common cause of breathlessness, is often misdiagnosed and misclassified, often as asthma” said researcher Dr Bruce Graham from the School of Biomedical Sciences
at CSU in Wagga Wagga.
“The Australian Lung Foundation calculated in 2001 that the Disease directly costs $300 million per annum - almost three times as much as lung cancer - and indirectly costs the national economy up to $900 million per annum,” Dr Graham said.
The results of tests conducted by CSU researchers were fed into what is known as the international Burden of Obstructive Lung Disease (BOLD) study. This study, focusing on lung function, began in 12 countries in 2007. The research has since been extended to over 150 locations in 25 countries.
“We wanted to have an input into the BOLD study so rural Australia is represented in this international project alongside metropolitan centres,” said Dr Graham.
In publishing the study’s findings in the Medical Journal of Australia earlier this year, the researchers have called for further research to ‘better understand the extent to which COPD is optimally diagnosed and managed in Australia’.
The local research, involving questionnaires, allergen testing, walking tests and spirometry tests, was conducted between 2009 and 2011 by a team of five in Wagga Wagga and a team of four researchers at CSU in Orange.