Research shows that COPD stigma hinders treatment and harms mental health for patients, and also leads to reduced funding

October 18, 2023

COPD Awareness Month is celebrated in November

Miami, Fla. (Oct. 18, 2023) --- COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder) is a chronic, progressive lung disease that affects more than 30 million people in the United States. Shockingly, over 15 million of them remain undiagnosed. COPD comprises several conditions, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema, and can be caused by genetics and irritants like smoke or pollution. In the United States cigarette smoking remains the most common cause but data suggests that 25-40% of COPD occurs in never smokers.

Stigma and the perception that the disease is self-inflicted profoundly impact social support, mental health, self-esteem, and likelihood of pursuing diagnosis and treatment. Because of public and professional bias, COPD patients are also more likely to experience inappropriate or insufficient care from medical staff, endure uncomfortable patient-doctor interactions, and be refused emergency care and access to oxygen therapy1.

COPD has five main causes:

  1. Smoking, secondhand smoke
  2. Early life-events like premature birth
  3. Occupational and environmental causes such as long-term exposure to air pollutants
  4. Genetics (alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency)
  5. Recurrent lung infections, particularly during childhood

This classification of COPD into origin types helps researchers, medical professionals, and the public re-examine assumptions about COPD patients and increases the likelihood that critical research and new treatment options will receive funding and support.

As the prevalence of COPD rises both nationally and globally, it is important to confront any bias and advocate for awareness, early diagnosis, and funding for research, new treatments and advanced therapies.

This November, you can also get involved in the COPD Foundation's COPD Awareness Month efforts to increase disease awareness, promote early diagnosis, reduce stigma, and raise funds for critical research.


  1. Mathioudakis AG, Ananth S, Vestbo J. Stigma: an unmet public health priority in COPD. The Lancet Respiratory Medicine. 2021;0(0). doi:
  2. Tamondong-Lachica DR, Skolnik N, Hurst JR, et al. GOLD 2023 Update: Implications for Clinical Practice. 2023;Volume 18:745-754. doi:


About the COPD Foundation
The COPD Foundation is a nonprofit organization established to improve the lives of people with COPD, bronchiectasis, and nontuberculous mycobacterial (NTM) lung disease through initiatives that expand services and speed innovations to make treatment more effective and affordable. The Foundation does this through scientific research, education, advocacy, and awareness to prevent disease, slow progression, and find a cure. For more information, visit, or follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

The COPD Foundation
Jessica Burke
(786) 625-7809