Research shows that one in seven Irish people have an undiagnosed lung condition.

13th December 2012

New research shows that one in seven or 15% of Irish people have an undiagnosed lung condition and that this figure doubles to almost 30% in people over 60 who have a history of smoking.

The study presented at the Irish Thoracic Society Annual Scientific Meeting is based on a survey of members of the public who availed of free lung function tests as part of an awareness campaign organised by the Irish Lung Health Alliance earlier this year.

“The data from this study shows the high prevalence and under-diagnosis of chronic lung disease in Ireland and confirms that lung disease is a major public health challenge. Lung disease is one of the most common reasons to visit the doctor and is often diagnosed at a late stage when damage to the lungs is irreversible and debilitating. Early diagnosis is key and leads to better outcomes and improved quality of life for patients while reducing dependency on over-stretched healthcare resources, ” said Dr Edward McKone, President of the Irish Thoracic Society and one of the authors of the research.

The research also shows that lung disease is more likely to affect people who are current or former smokers and who are over the age of 60. People who are educated to Junior Cert level or below are also shown to be more likely to have lung disease.

“Increasing awareness of lung disease amongst the public is vital. Symptoms such as persistent cough, wheeze and shortness of breath should be checked by a GP and people should look after their lung health by avoiding tobacco smoke and staying active. Once detected, lung diseases such as COPD and asthma are very treatable, leading to improved symptoms and quality of life for patients as well as avoiding further irreversible lung damage”, added Dr McKone.

Prof Tim McDonnell, Clinical Lead for the National COPD Programme welcomed the study.
“It is likely that a majority of those identified in this study suffer from COPD. We know that both under-diagnosis and low awareness levels are major challenges in the management of COPD in Ireland. The work of the National COPD Program, by providing patients with access to community based services (COPD Outreach), will prove crucial in addressing these challenges, ” said Prof McDonnell.

Lung disease causes one in five deaths in Ireland each year and deaths from lung disease exceed those from heart disease and are almost equal to those from non-respiratory cancer. It is the most common reason to visit a GP and the third most common reason for acute hospital admission. For more details on lung disease in Ireland please go to or

This research was based on data from 10 sites that offered Spirometry (lung function tests) to members of the public on World Spirometry Day, 26th June. Analysis was carried out using survey questionnaires and lung function test results on 515 participants.