Dissertations & Theses (Open Access)

Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


David Gimeno Ruiz De Porras

Second Advisor

Cici Xc Bauer

Third Advisor

Byeongyeb Choi


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a progressive and debilitating lung disease affecting primarily older adults. Incidence, morbidity and mortality from COPD are increasing worldwide. The purpose of this study was to determine the associations between age at baseline and markers of disease progression in COPD patients using data generated by the Genetic Epidemiology of COPD (COPD Gene) study. Participants with COPD were stratified by age (younger: age <65 years, elderly: age ≥ 65 years) and disease characteristics (lung function, exercise tolerance, exacerbation history, and comorbidity burden) at baseline and five-year follow up were compared between groups. Associations between age group and changes in these measures were also assessed. Disease characteristics differed significantly between elderly and younger COPD patients at both study visits. Elderly COPD patients had worse lung function and more comorbidities than younger COPD patients, while younger COPD patients reported more dyspnea and more frequent and severe exacerbations than elderly COPD patients. Following covariate adjustment, elderly participants were less likely than younger participants to develop new frequent exacerbations over the study period (relative risk ratio (95% confidence interval): 0.42 (0.20, 0.87)). There were no other significant associations between age group and markers of disease progression. These results suggest that although elderly COPD patients exhibit evidence of more severe lung function impairment than younger COPD patients, the rate of disease progression is similar between elderly and younger patients. However, further exploration is needed to understand the possible contribution of survivorship bias to this finding. Nevertheless, this study supports the importance of early detection and early intervention to slow disease progression and maximize both life expectancy and quality of life for COPD patients.