Research Shows Worrying Trend in Women’s COPD Rates in Catalonia, Cantabria and the Baleares

ISGlobal and ERS offer free spirometry tests in Barcelona to raise awareness of the importance of lung health

Photo: Aleix Cabrera / ISGlobal

New data from a study which will be presented this week at the ERS Congress in Barcelona has shown that while rates of COPD in women have been dropping for the last 20 years in Spain, they have started to flatten in Catalonia and increase in Cantabria and Baleares.

The findings of this research led by Dr. Gema Ramírez from HU Virgen de las Nieves, Granada, suggest a number of risk factors could be causing the slowing and reversal of this previous positive trend, such as air pollution and smoking.

The conclusions of this study were made public during an event of the Healthy Lungs for Life campaign held in Barcelona on September 3 and organised by ISGlobal and the ERS. The event aimed to put a spotlight on how to prevent COPD and other chronic lung conditions. Doctors and nurses took to the streets to measure residents’ lung health and highlight the importance of Healthy Lungs for Life.

Across the globe, lung diseases are among the leading causes of death – yet the majority of lung diseases are preventable or could be better controlled at an early stage if detected by a simple lung function test, known as spirometry.

The new study, which will be presented at the ERS Congress next Tuesday 06 September 2022, has looked at the number of people dying from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in Spain over the last 20 years. The findings show that overall rates are falling in Spain (from 28.77 deaths per 100,000 in 1999 to 12.14 deaths per 100,000 in 2019), as well as in Catalonia (from 29.57 deaths per 100,000 in 1999 to 12.58 deaths per 100,000 in 2019).

This decrease in deaths rates from COPD has been observed both in men and women, but in Catalonia the reduction has been less intense, with a flattening in COPD death rates in women since 2006. The authors also observed an increase in death rates among females in Cantabria and Baleares (from 2.31 per 100,000 in 2006 to 6.91 per 100,000 in 2019 and from 4.82 per 100,000 in 2006 to 6.22 per 100,000 in 2019, respectively).

The data were obtained from the Statistic Portal of the Spanish Health Ministry. An estimation of the annual change in rates was also calculated as a reduction of 3.8% per year for the whole of Spain, 3.69% per year for Catalonia in males and 6.73% in women (1999-2006) and 1.49% in women (2006-2019).

Una voluntaria realiza una espirometría durante un acto de la campaña "Pulmones sanos para toda la vida" realizado en Barcelona

“Healthy Lungs for Life” Campaign

Organised by the European Respiratory Society and the European Lung Foundation, and in collaboration with ISGlobal, a centre supported by the ”la Caixa” Foundation, and the University of Barcelona, the Healthy Lungs for Life campaign seeks to reduce the number of people suffering from lung disease. It raises awareness and knowledge of lung conditions and ways to prevent lung damage. On Saturday, September 3, volunteer doctors and nurses offered free lung function tests at a Healthy Lungs for Life event in Plaça Universitat and gave participants free spirometry tests measuring their lung capacity. If the results raised concerns, participants were given a letter to take to their doctor.

The public test happened ahead of the European Respiratory Society’s International Congress , the biggest event for lung health professionals in the world. The Congress will see up to >10,000 lung health professionals meet in the city and online from 4-6 September to discuss the latest developments in the field.

On behalf of the Government of Catalonia, the event was launched by Dr. Carmen Cabezas, Secretary of Public Health.

Speaking at the launch, Professor Marc Humbert, President of the European Respiratory Society stated: “It is now more important than ever that people are aware that there is a simple way to monitor and protect their lung health.”

“A quick and easy check of your lung function can be reassuring for most people or can help to detect a possible problem when it is still treatable. It is important to keep your lungs healthy, by breathing clean air, avoiding infections through vaccination and maintaining a healthy level of physical activity. All these points are important for our patients and for all citizens”, said Thierry Troosters, European Respiratory Society Congress Chair.


“We hope that our HLfL campaign helps the people of Barcelona to find ways to ensure they maintain Healthy Lungs for Life.” added Kjeld Hansen, Chair of the European Lung Foundation.

This year, the public lung testing event also helped draw people’s attention to the key themes of the Healthy Lungs for Life campaign:

  • Breathe Clean Air
  • Be Smoke Free
  • Take The Active Option
  • Vaccinate
  • Fight Climate Change

In addition to the public testing, there will be two further ways the public can get involved in the campaign: