Background: A thorough examination of the morbidity and comorbidity profiles among the elderly and an evaluation of the related factors are required to improve the delivery of health care to the elderly and to estimate the cost of that care. In South Korea where the aged population is rapidly increasing, however, to date only one study using a limited sample (84 subjects) has provided information on morbidity and related factors among the elderly. Using a large, stratified, random sample (2,767 subjects) from the population-based Ansan Geriatric study, the present study sought to assess the morbidity and comorbidity, and to determine the relationships of these variables with sociodemographic and health characteristics in elderly people in South Korea.
Methods: A total of 2,767 subjects (1,215 men and 1,552 women) aged 60-84 years were randomly selected from September 2002 to August 2003 in Ansan, South Korea. Data on sociodemographic and health characteristics, and clinical diagnosis were collected using questionnaires. When available, the medical records and medications taken by the subjects were also cross-checked.
Results: Of the total subjects, 78.0% reported diagnosed disease, 11.0% had been cured, and 46.8% had been diagnosed with more than two diseases. The mean number of morbidities per person among elderly Koreans was 1.62 +/- 1.35 (mean +/- standard deviation), and women had a greater number of diseases per person than did men. The most common morbidities were chronic diseases such as hypertension, arthritis, and diabetes mellitus. In women, osteoporosis and arthritis were the second and third most prevalent diseases, respectively. Morbidity was significantly associated with gender, employment, household income, alcohol intake, self-assessed health status, and worries about health.
Conclusion: These data will enhance understanding of the patterns of health problems among elderly Koreans and will contribute to the application of appropriate intervention strategies.