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Health Information Center

Risk Factors for Pneumonia

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:

Condition InDepth

Risk Factors for Pneumonia

A risk factor is something that raises the chances of getting a health problem. A person can get pneumonia with or without the ones listed below. The chances of getting pneumonia are greater in people who have many risk factors.

Pneumonia is more common in babies, young children, and older adults. Other things that may raise the risk are:

Smoking and Secondhand Smoke

People who smoke have a much higher risk of getting pneumonia. Those who stop smoking will have their risk slowly return to normal, but it will take some time. People who are exposed to secondhand smoke are also at risk.

Alcohol and Drug Misuse

Alcohol and drug misuse raise the risk of pneumonia as well as other health problems.

Crowded Living Conditions

The risk of pneumonia is higher among people living in crowded conditions, such as people who live in:

  • College dorms
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Nursing homes
  • Military barracks

Health Problems

People who are hospitalized have a much higher risk of getting pneumonia than people who are not. The risk is even higher for people who have had major surgery or who are on ventilators. Other health problems that can raise the risk are:

Children have a higher risk of getting pneumonia if they have:

  • A weakened immune system
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD)
  • Lung or heart defects
  • Allergies or asthma
  • Nervous system problems that affect the muscles of the mouth and throat

Genetic Factors

A number of genetic disorders can raise the risk, such as:

Environmental Factors

Exposure to toxic fumes or smoke can weaken the lungs. This can raise the risk of pneumonia.


  • Community-acquired pneumonia in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/community-acquired-pneumonia-in-adults.
  • Community-acquired pneumonia in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/community-acquired-pneumonia-in-children.
  • COVID-19: How to protect yourself and others. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html.
  • Pneumonia. American Lung Association website. Available at: https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/pneumonia.
  • What is pneumonia? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/pneumonia.


  • David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.