The UK has the worst death rate for lung conditions such as asthma in western Europe, new analysis has found.
More than 100,000 people in the UK die from conditions including asthma attacks, bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pneumonia every year, according to charity Asthma and Lung UK.
Across Europe, only Turkey has a higher respiratory death rate than the UK, analysis of most recent data shows. Meanwhile, people are three times less likely to die from lung disease in Finland than in the UK, which has the lowest lung disease death rates in Europe.
The charity said one likely cause was air pollution, which is now connected to 36,000 premature deaths each year in the UK.
They said there was also a link to deprivation, with people in the poorest neighbourhoods seven times more likely to die of a lung condition than those in the richest areas. That could be down to greater exposure to poor-quality damp housing, other forms of air pollution and cigarette smoke.
Action on lung death needed now
The new charity, which is an amalgamation of the British Lung Foundation and Asthma UK, described the figures as ‘shameful’ and demanded tougher clean air targets, better diagnosis and care.
It said that lung disease has been treated like the ‘poor relation compared with other major illnesses like cancer and heart disease’.
Lung conditions are the third biggest cause of death in the UK, despite this, only 2% of publicly funded research is spent on the area, it added.
Sarah Woolnough, chief executive of Asthma and Lung UK said: ‘It is a national scandal that people are more likely to die from a lung condition in the UK than almost anywhere in Europe.
‘We need urgent action now. The pandemic has brought it to people’s attention that lung conditions can and do kill and how terrifying it can be to struggle with breathlessness.’
The charity has called on the Government to triple investment in lung research and innovation over the next five years to at least £150m each year and commit to much bolder clean air legal targets to protect all our lung health.
It comes after a study found in January that exposure to pesticides at work is linked to an increased risk of developing COPD.