Results: Among 4,291 never smokers, 6.6% met criteria for mild (GOLD stage I) COPD, and 5.6% met criteria for moderate to very severe (GOLD stage II+) COPD. Although never smokers were less likely to have COPD and had less severe COPD than ever smokers, never smokers nonetheless comprised 23.3% (240/1,031) of those classified with GOLD stage II+ COPD. This proportion was similar, 20.5% (171/832), even when the LLN was used as a threshold for the FEV1/FVC ratio. Predictors of COPD in never smokers include age, education, occupational exposure, childhood respiratory diseases, and BMI alterations.
Conclusion: This multicenter international study confirms previous evidence that never smokers comprise a substantial proportion of individuals with COPD. Our data suggest that, in addition to increased age, a prior diagnosis of asthma and, among women, lower education levels are associated with an increased risk for COPD among never smokers.