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Recent advances in our understanding of the epidemiology of ARDS has generated key insights into the incidence, risk factors, demographics, management and outcomes from this devastating clinical syndrome.ARDS occurs in 10% of all ICU patients, in 23% of all mechanically ventilated patients, with 5.5 cases per ICU bed each year. Although some regional variation exists regarding ARDS incidence, this may be less than previously thought. Subphenotypes are increasingly identified within the ARDS cohort, with studies identifying a ‘hyperinflammatory’ or ‘reactive’ subgroup that has a higher mortality, and may respond differently to therapeutic interventions. Demographic factors, such as race, may also affect the therapeutic response. Although mortality in ARDS is decreasing in clinical trials, it remains unchanged at approximately 40% in major observational studies. Modifiable ventilatory management factors, including PEEP, airway pressures, and respiratory rate are associated with mortality in ARDS. Hospital and ICU organizational factors play a role in outcome, whereas socioeconomic status is independently associated with survival in patients with ARDS. The Kigali adaptation of the Berlin ARDS definition may provide useful insights into the burden of ARDS in the developing world.ARDS exerts a substantial disease burden, with 40% of patients dying in hospital. Diverse factors, including patient-related factors such as age and illness severity, country level socioeconomic status, and ventilator management and ICU organizational factors each contribute to outcome from ARDS. Addressing these issues provides opportunities to improve outcome in patients with ARDS.