COPD is the third leading cause of death in America, and poverty is the leading cause of COPD mortality. Think about that for a second. Let me say it another way: Poverty is the leading cause of COPD mortality, which is the third leading cause of death in America.
A BOLD study published in Thorax in 2013 goes to the bottom line: “Smoking prevalence correlates with airflow obstruction but not with mortality from COPD; COPD mortality is associated with low vital capacity; COPD mortality and low vital capacity are associated with poverty.” And HealthDay reports: “Deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are more common in rural or poor areas, according to new research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
So here is insight number two: If COPD is most prevalent among America’s rural poor, is it also most deadly in that population. This places a sober yet disturbing twist on the words of Adam Smith: “The real tragedy of the poor is the poverty of their aspirations.”