Background: Virtually all the information available on the prevalence of obstructive airway disease is from Western countries. There are no data from Korea, and reports from other regions of Asia are poorly documented.
Objectives: To evaluate the prevalence and correlates of airway obstruction in a community-based setting in Korea.
Design: A cross-sectional, population-based study.
Setting: Ansan City, near Seoul, South Korea.
Participants: A sample of 1,160 community-dwelling men and women aged ≥ 18 years (73.1% of the men and 4.1% of the women were either current or former smokers).
Measurements: Subjects underwent physical examinations following a standardized protocol. Data on demographic and health-related factors also were collected. Pulmonary function testing was administered according to American Thoracic Society (ATS) recommendations.
Results: The prevalence of airway obstruction was 10.3% (men, 17%; women, 5.6%) by ATS criteria. Ninety percent of the cases of airway obstruction were mild in degree. Twenty percent of male current smokers had airway obstruction. After adjusting for age, gender, and alcohol consumption, the odds of disease was 3.2 times greater in subjects who had smoked for ≥ 20 pack-years vs never smokers (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.7 to 6.2). The adjusted odds of disease were 4.3-fold higher in subjects ≥ 45 years of age vs those who were younger (95% CI, 2.6 to 7.0).
Conclusions: Since airway obstruction is strongly related to age and smoking, the prevalence of obstructive airway disease in countries like Korea, where the population is rapidly aging and cigarette smoking is on the rise among younger individuals (particularly among women), can be expected to increase. Further efforts to diagnose early obstructive airway disease and to prevent or delay its onset should be emphasized as a major public health concern.