The challenge of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is much greater in some areas than previously thought, it has been revealed.

An analysis by the Eastern region public health observatory estimates the number of people with COPD is 41.7 per 1,000 adults. The prevalence ranges from 19.3 per 1,000 in Aylesbury Vale in Buckinghamshire to 64.4 per 1,000 in Thanet, Kent.

The estimates are based on population characteristics including sex, ethnicity, smoking levels and whether it is a rural or urban area. But changes to the way COPD levels are estimated means the disease could be more common in some areas than previously thought.

Dr Julian Flowers, the observatory's technical director, said smoking rates for individual areas were used, rather than assuming rates of smoking were the same across the country, as was previously done.

This means that estimated levels of COPD have shot up in areas such as Thanet, where it has almost doubled.

COPD, which encompasses conditions such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema, is usually caused by smoking and is one of the most common reasons for admission to hospital.

Five worst estimated COPD levels (per 1,000 adults over 15)

  • Thanet - 64.4

  • Blackpool - 63.5

  • Great Yarmouth - 63.3

  • South Tyneside - 62.9

  • Torbay/Kingston-upon-Hull - 61.9