Chronic respiratory diseases (including chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and bronchial asthma) represent an average of 2.9% of all deaths reported for 1972, the highest mean percentage being reported from Africa (6.3%) and the lowest from Asia (2.0%). Of all deaths from chronic respiratory diseases, 18.4% occurred in infants and children and 81.6% in adults (15 years and over).
Chronic respiratory diseases are responsible also for widespread morbidity and invalidity in several parts of the world, in spite of the fact that some causative or aggravating factors (such as smoking, air pollution, socioeconomic conditions and respiratory infections in children) are already known and could be ameliorated or removed. With due reservations concerning differences in criteria, data from the World Health Organization over recent years indicate cases of this problem in the following countries: [Africa] Mauritius; [America] Brazil, Canada, El Salvador; [Asia] Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Syria, Thailand; [Pacific] Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea; [Europe] Austria, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, UK, Yugoslavia.
In the WHO Europe region, diseases of the respiratory system cause 6% of all deaths; that proportion was roughly the same in 1995 as in 1990. Tobacco smoking is contributing to the high and rising mortality rates in the NIS countries. Asthma, allergy and other forms of respiratory sensitivity have increased in prevalence in many countries in western Europe. These diseases are potentially linked with environmental conditions. The high prevalence among children is of special concern.