Updated 23 July 2018

How common is chronic cough?

Chronic coughing is a very common complaint among the general population.

A 2015 meta-analysis by Song W et al. – in which 90 studies were included – indicated that the global prevalence of chronic cough is about 9.6%.

The regional prevalences, according to the analysis, were as follows:

  • Oceania: 18.1% 
  • Europe: 12.7% 
  • America: 11.0% 
  • Asia: 4.4% 
  • Africa: 2.3% 

It’s interesting to note that chronic cough is significantly more frequent in Europe and America than in Asia and Africa.

“Environmental factors may account for the regional variation,” the researchers say. “Urbanisation in Western countries may increase the risk of inhalational exposure to irritants.”

Obesity and allergic rhinitis (hayfever) may be other contributing factors.

The prevalence of current smoking also correlated with cough prevalence. 

Reviewed by Professor Richard van Zyl-Smit, Head of the Lung Clinical Research Unit at the University of Cape Town. MBChB, MRCP(UK), Dip HIV(Man), MMED, FCP(SA), Cert Pulm(SA), PhD. February 2018.


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Professor Keertan Dheda has received several prestigious awards including the 2014 Oppenheimer Award, and has published over 160 peer-reviewed papers and holds 3 patents related to new TB diagnostic or infection control technologies. He serves on the editorial board of the journals PLoS One, the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Medicine, Lancet Respiratory Diseases and Nature Scientific Reports, amongst others. Read his full biography at the University of Cape Town Lung Institute.

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