Symptoms and lung function decline in a middle-aged cohort of males and females in Australia

Michael J. Abramson, Sonia Kaushik, Geza P. Benke, Brigitte M. Borg, Catherine L Smith, Shyamali C. Dharmage, Bruce R. Thompson

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14 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The European Community Respiratory Health Survey is a major international study designed to assess lung health in adults. This Australian follow-up investigated changes in symptoms between sexes and the roles of asthma, smoking, age, sex, height, and change in body mass index (ΔBMI) on lung function decline (LFD), which is a major risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). 

Methods: LFD was measured as the rate of decline over time in FEV1 (mL/year) (ΔFEV1) and FVC (ΔFVC) between 1993 and 2013. Multiple linear regression was used to estimate associations between risk factors and LFD, separately for males and females. Multiple logistic regression was used to assess sex differences and changes in respiratory symptoms over time. 

Results: In Melbourne, 318 subjects (53.8% females) participated. The prevalence of most respiratory symptoms had either remained relatively stable over 20 years or decreased (significantly so for wheeze). The exception was shortness of breath after activity, which had increased. Among the 262 subjects who completed spirometry, current smoking declined from 20.2% to 7.3%. Overall mean (± standard deviation) FEV1 declined by 23.1 (±17.1) and FVC by 22.9 (±20.2) mL/year. Predictors of ΔFEV1 in males were age, maternal smoking, and baseline FEV1; and in females they were age, ΔBMI, baseline FEV1, and pack-years in current smokers. Decline in FVC was predicted by baseline FVC, age, and ΔBMI in both sexes; however, baseline FVC predicted steeper decline in females than males. 

Conclusion: Most respiratory symptoms remained stable or decreased over time in both sexes. Age, baseline lung function, and change in BMI were associated with the rate of decline in both sexes. However, obesity and personal smoking appear to put females at higher risk of LFD than males. Health promotion campaigns should particularly target females to prevent COPD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1097-1103
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2016


  • Body mass index
  • Cohort study
  • COPD
  • Lung function
  • Respiratory symptoms
  • Tobacco smoking

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