Who gets pneumonia?

Anyone can get pneumonia, but it is most common in people whose host defenses are compromised in some way. Poverty and malnutrition are important factors predisposing to pneumonia. In poorer regions of the world, children are hit especially hard. Approximately half the lung infection deaths worldwide are in children under age five. Host defenses are also compromised with advancing age. In wealthier communities, where people tend to live longer, pneumonia is an especially prominent problem for older people. Other factors increasing the risk of pneumonia include cigarette smoking, alcohol abuse, and obesity. Hospitalization is another important risk factor for pneumonia.


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), lung infections are the leading burden of disease worldwide, causing the loss of more disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) than other diseases well-recognized for their serious nature (such as cancers, heart attacks, or strokes). Lung infections cause more deaths and the loss of more DALYs than any other infections (such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, or tuberculosis) in both the wealthiest and the poorest countries of the world.


More details are available in the essay “Lung infection – A public health priority.”

July 29, 2012
Primary teaching affiliate
of BU School of Medicine