Which State Had The Most Deaths From Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases In 2021?

Chronic lower respiratory diseases are comprised of four different diseases: asthma, chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and emphysema, as per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For one, asthma is a chronic condition that makes it difficult for air to flow when breathing out and can result in your airways becoming inflamed, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Similar to asthma, chronic bronchitis causes inflammation of the tubes that carry air to the lungs (via Mayo Clinic). While also leading to difficulties with breathing, emphysema is a condition that damages the air sacs in the lungs. COPD — commonly associated with chronic bronchitis and emphysema — blocks airflow from the lungs.

In fact, 5% of Americans have been diagnosed with either chronic bronchitis, emphysema, or COPD (per CDC). While that number may seem small, in 2020, some 873,000 people visited an emergency department due to COPD. Turns out, chronic lower respiratory diseases are the sixth leading cause of death in the United States — killing 152,657 in 2020 (via CDC). Chronic lower respiratory diseases affect many people nationwide, but the state with the most deaths related to these diseases may surprise you.

Does your state have a high chronic lower respiratory diseases death rate?

Death rates from chronic lower respiratory diseases are different from state to state, with some parts of the United States facing much higher rates than others. In 2021, Hawaii, New Jersey, and New York had the lowest death count from chronic lower respiratory diseases, with Hawaii at 18.1 deaths per 100,000 people, New Jersey at 21.1, and New York at 22.6. On the other hand, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Arkansas led the country in deaths per 100,000 people. Mississippi tallied 59.2 deaths per 100,000 people, while Oklahoma had 60.1. Arkansas topped the list at 61.5 deaths per 100,000 people.

Some of the leading risk factors for chronic lower respiratory diseases are tobacco smoke and air pollution, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The states that topped the nation in death rates from chronic lower respiratory diseases — Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Arkansas — rank in the top 12 for states with the most smokers, while the states with the lowest death rates from chronic lower respiratory diseases — Hawaii, New Jersey, and New York — rank in the bottom 17 (per WedMD). However, pollution ranking by state paints a less clear picture. Arkansas, Mississippi, and New Jersey rank at the bottom of the nation, while Hawaii, New York, and Oklahoma round out the top 25 (via U.S. News & World Report). Notably, while chronic lower respiratory diseases are not curable, symptoms can be treated and managed to improve day-to-day living, as per WHO.