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Deaths from chronic respiratory diseases rise 30% in U.S.

Data: Trends and Patterns of Differences in Chronic Respiratory Disease Mortality Among US Counties, 1980-2014; Maps: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

Deaths from chronic respiratory disease rose by almost 30% from 1980 through 2014 in the U.S., with a large portion occurring in the Appalachia and Mississippi Valley, according to county-specific data study published Tuesday. The researchers examined the deaths of 80 million Americans, and found 4.6 million died from a chronic respiratory disease.

Biggest concern: The majority of those deaths was due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in central Appalachia but can be found in other states in the southern half of the U.S. as far west as Colorado. David Mannino, who co-wrote an editorial about the study, pointed out mortality tended to occur in places where there is a high concentration of low-income, white individuals with current or historic tobacco use.

Why this matters: Chronic respiratory diseases became the fifth leading cause of death in 2015 and resulted in approximately $132 billion in health spending in 2013, the study stated. With county-level data, public health directives can be more targeted and, some experts hope, more effective in cutting death rates from the disease.