Dyspnoea is a cardinal symptom for cardiorespiratory diseases. No study has assessed worldwide variation in dyspnoea prevalence or predictors of dyspnoea. We used cross-sectional data from population-based samples in 15 countries of the Burden of Obstructive Lung Disease (BOLD) study to estimate prevalence of dyspnoea in the full sample, as well as in an a priori defined low-risk group (few risk factors or dyspnoea-associated diseases). Dyspnoea was defined by the modified Medical Research Council questions. We used ordered logistic regression analysis to study the association of dyspnoea with site, sex, age, education, smoking habits, low/high body mass index, self-reported disease and spirometry results. Of the 9484 participants, 27% reported any dyspnoea. In the low-risk subsample (n=4329), 16% reported some dyspnoea. In multivariate analyses, all covariates were correlated to dyspnoea, but only 13% of dyspnoea variation was explained. Females reported more dyspnoea than males (odds ratio ∼2.1). When forced vital capacity fell below 60% of predicted, dyspnoea was much more likely. There was considerable geographical variation in dyspnoea, even when we adjusted for known risk factors and spirometry results. We were only able to explain 13% of dyspnoea variation. Copyright ©ERS 2014.

Original publication




Journal article


European Respiratory Journal

Publication Date





1610 - 1620