Increased Education, Research Needed to Address Risk of COPD Among Sexual and Gender Minorities

Prevalence of COPD is higher in LGBTQ+ Communities

MIAMI (June 20, 2024) - Increased research, smoking cessation efforts, and education about lung health are needed to address the increased prevalence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in sexual and gender minority communities, according to two new articles. The articles are published in the May 2024 issue of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases: Journal of the COPD Foundation, a peer-reviewed, open-access journal.

COPD comprises several conditions, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema, and can be caused by irritants like smoke or pollution and genetics. The disease affects an estimated 30 million Americans, yet only about half are aware that they have the disease. Studies have shown that LGBTQ+ populations have higher rates of tobacco smoking, putting them at a higher risk of developing COPD.

In a perspective piece, "From Invisibility to Inclusion: A Call to Action to Address COPD Disparities in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer+ Community," the authors conducted a literature review of COPD in LGBTQ+ populations and found eight studies that examined the prevalence of COPD in various groups of the LGBTQ+ community. All eight studies determined there was an increased occurrence of COPD within the studied groups when compared to heterosexual and/or cisgender populations.

"Although the prevalence of COPD has been shown to be higher in the LGBTQ+ community, we need current research and prevention efforts to actively address the issue," said Ninad T. Maniar, M.D., a pulmonologist and critical care physician at Medstar Washington Hospital Center in Washington, DC. "We propose a three-part call to action: increased education about COPD and the risk of tobacco smoke, expanded COPD prevention and intervention efforts including the development of culturally sensitive smoking cessation resources and focused research on COPD in LGBTQ+ populations. These efforts can help improve the health of these marginalized communities - now and in the future."

In a brief report, "Sexual Orientation Health Disparities in Chronic Respiratory Disorders," the authors examined data from the 2020 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) to explore disparities in COPD among people who identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual. The analysis showed that both smoking and the prevalence of COPD was 1.2 times higher when compared to people who identified as heterosexual.

"Our analysis of data from a large, national dataset showed increases in both smoking rates and the prevalence of chronic respiratory disorders among sexual minorities," said Kevin P. Ferriter, M.D., a pulmonary and critical care fellow at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine in Chicago. "While additional research is needed to examine risk factors for COPD among these populations, including social determinants of health for which sexual minorities face disparities, this report demonstrates the need for physicians to provide care for sexual minority patients that includes addressing smoking cessation and the risks of developing chronic lung disease."

To access current and past issues of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases: Journal of the COPD Foundation, visit


About the COPD Foundation
The COPD Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help millions of people live longer and healthier lives by advancing research, advocacy, and awareness to stop COPD, bronchiectasis, and NTM lung disease. 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.

Brittany Irish