Introduction A large group of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are exposed to an overload of oral corticosteroids (OCS) due to repeated exacerbations. This is associated with potential serious adverse effects. Therefore, we evaluated the impact of a recommended reduction of OCS duration in 2014 on the risk of pneumonia hospitalisation and all-cause mortality in patients with acute exacerbation of COPD (AECOPD). Methods This was a nationwide observational cohort study that was based on linked administrative registry data between 1 January 2010 and 31 October 2017. 10 152 outpatients with COPD (median age 70 years) treated with either a short (≤250 mg) or long course (>250 mg) of OCS for AECOPD were included in the study. Cox proportional hazards regression models were used to derive an estimation of multivariable adjusted HRs (aHRs) for pneumonia hospitalisation or all-cause mortality combined and pneumonia hospitalisation and all-cause mortality, separately. Results The long course of OCS treatment for AECOPD was associated with an increased 1-year risk of pneumonia hospitalisation or all-cause mortality (aHR 1.3, 95% CI 1.1 to 1.4; p<0.0001), pneumonia hospitalisation (aHR 1.2, 95% CI 1.0 to 1.3; p=0.0110) and all-cause mortality (aHR 1.8, 95% CI 1.5 to 2.2; p<0.0001) as compared with the short course of OCS treatment. These results were confirmed in several sensitivity analyses. Conclusion The change of recommendations from long courses to short courses of OCS for AECOPD in 2014 was strongly associated with a decrease in pneumonia admissions and all-cause mortality, in favour of short courses of OCS.