Influence of multimorbidity on cognition in a normal aging population: a 12-year follow-up in the Maastricht Aging Study

Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2011 Oct;26(10):1046-53. doi: 10.1002/gps.2642. Epub 2010 Oct 20.


Objective: The prevalence of multimorbidity has risen considerably because of the increase in longevity and the rapidly growing number of older individuals. Today, only little is known about the influence of multimorbidity on cognition in a normal healthy aging population. The primary aim of the present study was to investigate the effect of multimorbidity on cognition over a 12-year period in an adult population with a large age range.

Methods: Data were collected as part of the Maastricht Aging Study (MAAS), a prospective study into the determinants of cognitive aging. Eligible MAAS participants (N = 1763), 24-81 years older, were recruited from the Registration Network Family Practices (RNH) which enabled the use of medical records. The association between 96 chronic diseases, grouped into 23 disease clusters, and cognition on baseline, at 6 and 12 years of follow-up, were analyzed. Cognitive performance was measured in two main domains: verbal memory and psychomotor speed. A multilevel statistical analysis, a method that respects the hierarchical data structure, was used.

Results: Multiple disease clusters were associated with cognition during a 12-year follow-up period in a healthy adult population. The disease combination malignancies and movement disorders multimorbidity also appeared to significantly affect cognition.

Conclusions: The current results indicate that a variety of medical conditions adversely affects cognition. However, these effects appear to be small in a normal healthy aging population.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Chronic Disease / psychology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands
  • Young Adult