Lung conditions are responsible for one in 10 of all deaths in Europe and puts their financial costs at a minimum of 390 billion euros per year.

These are some of the stark figures from a major new publication from the European Respiratory Society as its annual congress kicks off in Barcelona. The data comes from a sturdy tome the ERS has published, called  the European Lung White Book,

Each year among the 28 countries of the European Union, lung diseases cause two-thirds of a million deaths, and at least six million hospital admissions, accounting for over 43 million in-patient bed-days. Among the wealthy countries of the continent, Belgium and Denmark have the highest mortality from respiratory diseases, at 117 deaths per 100,000 population followed by Ireland (114) and the UK (112).

 However, the proportion of total deaths attributed to a lung condition is highest in the UK and Ireland and the White Book shows that while tobacco smoking rates in these high-death rate countries such as Denmark and the UK have fallen substantially since the 1970s, the long-term effects from years gone by continue to manifest in cases of lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

By contrast Finland, “with its highly active programme targeting respiratory illness, has the lowest death rate (54 per 100,000). Other countries with low mortality include Sweden (56) and Cyprus (57).

Cashwise, that the total average health and societal cost per case of lung cancer is 364,213 euros, while for tuberculosis it is 86,217 euros. On the other hand, the costs of COPD, at 6,147 euros per case per year, and asthma, at 7,443 euros per year, accrue over many years, “and represent an even greater socioeconomic burden because they are so common”.

Francesco Blasi, ERS president, noted that by 2030, the WHO estimates that pneumonia, tuberculosis, lung cancer and COPD will account for about one in five deaths worldwide, compared to one-sixth in 2008. An increase in COPD and lung cancer deaths will balance a decline in deaths from lower respiratory infections and tuberculosis.

He adds that both the prevention and treatment of lung diseases will need to be improved “if their impact on longevity, quality of life of individuals and economic burden on society are to be reduced”. Prof Blasi concluded by saying that “since formulation of optimal policy demands accurate and up to date information, it is of paramount importance that all European governments improve and standardise surveillance and data collection relating to respiratory diseases as a top priority and a matter of urgency”.