COVID-19 Mortality Higher With COPD and Smoking, Study Finds


Results of a PLOS ONE study determined a positive relationship between COPD and smoking and mortality rates from COVID-19.

Results of a new study published in PLOS ONE found a correlation between high mortality rates from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and individuals who currently smoke and are diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The study, co-published by Jaber Alqahtani, PhD, determined this association by searching databases of scientific literature to find publications on conditions similar to those found in victims of COVID-19, as well as the prevalence of COPD in patients with COVID-19. Of 15 research papers with reports on 2473 patients with COVID-19 , 58 (2.3%) were diagnosed with COPD, and 221 (9%) as smokers.

One of the most common symptoms of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is dysfunction of the respiratory system. Individuals with COPD experience similar effects, and given this similarity, the team wanted to see if there was a clear correlation between the condition and the virus.

The study determined that patients with COPD who were critically ill with COVID-19 had a 63% risk of severe disease and a 60% risk of mortality; meanwhile, patients with COVID-19 without COPD had a 33.4% risk of severe disease and 55% risk of mortality. Current smokers showed a risk of 22% of contracting severe complications, as did 46% of ex-smokers. Current smokers also exhibited a 38.5% mortality rate, according to the study.

Despite these percentages, the study investigators were unable to determine an association between the frequency of COPD exacerbations, or severity of COPD, with COVID-19 complications, primarily because COPD was low in reports of COVID-19 cases. Other hinderances were the diversity of locations, settings, and designs of the 15 studies.


  1. COPD and smoking associated with higher COVID-19 mortality. News Release. ScienceDaily; May 11, 2020. Accessed June 23, 2020.
  2. Alqahtani JS, Oyelade T, Aldhahir AM, et al. Prevalence, severity and mortality associated with COPD and smoking in patients with COVID-19: A rapid systematic review and meta-analysis. PLOS ONE. 2020; 15(5): e0233147.
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