Rural residence and poverty are independent risk factors for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in the United States

Sarath Raju, Corinne A. Keet, Laura Paulin, Elizabeth C. Matsui, Roger D. Peng, Nadia N. Hansel, Meredith C. McCormack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Rationale: In developing countries, poor and rural areas have a high burden of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and environmental pollutants and indoor burning of biomass have been implicated as potential causal exposures. Less is known about the prevalence of COPD in the United States with respect to urban-rural distribution, poverty, and factors that uniquely contribute to COPD among never-smokers. Objectives: To understand the impact of urban-rural status, poverty, and other community factors on COPD prevalence nationwide and among never-smokers. Methods: We studied a nationally representative sample of adults in the National Health Interview Survey 2012-2015, with data linkage between neighborhood data from the U.S. Census's American Community Survey and the National Center for Health Statistics Urban-Rural Classification Scheme. The main outcome was COPD prevalence. Measurements and Main Results: The prevalence of COPD in poor, rural areas was almost twice that in the overall population (15.4% vs. 8.4%). In adjusted models, rural residence (odds ratio [OR], 1.23; P < 0.001) and census-level poverty (OR, 1.12; P = 0.012) were both associated with COPD prevalence, as were indicators of household wealth. Among never-smokers, rural residence was also associated with COPD (OR, 1.34; P < 0.001), as was neighborhood use of coal for heating (OR, 1.09; P < 0.001). Conclusions: In a nationally representative sample, rural residence and poverty were risk factors for COPD, even among never-smokers. The use of coal for heating was also a risk factor for COPD among never-smokers. Future disparities research to elucidate contributors to COPD development in poor and rural areas, including assessments of heating sources and environmental pollutants, is needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)961-969
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican journal of respiratory and critical care medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 2019


  • COPD
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Epidemiology
  • Health disparities
  • Rural health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Rural residence and poverty are independent risk factors for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in the United States'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this