Results from a study in the United Kingdom indicate the magnitude of underdiagnosis . The authors surmised that chronic airways obstruction is underdiagnosed and undertreated in adults and the elderly. To test their hypothesis, they surveyed 783 men and women over the age of 45 years in the city of Manchester – an industrial centre. Survey respondents were then invited to undergo pulmonary function tests and methacholine challenge. The overall response rate was 92.3%; the mean age of the population was 66.1 years.
The study yielded several interesting results. The smoking rate was high: 29.2% of the respondents reported that they were current smokers and 37.3% were exsmokers. Reduced lung function may be the result of heavy smoking in the past as well as current smoking; the Manchester statistics suggest that a large number of older adults are at risk. Indeed, the prevalence of COPD was high. Evidence of chronic airway obstruction was found in 26.4% of the 247 respondents who were evaluated with spirometry. Of these, 76.6% reported respiratory symptoms, yet only 55.4% had received a diagnosis of asthma or chronic bronchitis.