Multimorbidity, the coexistence of 2 or more chronic conditions, has become prevalent among older adults as mortality rates have declined and the population has aged. We examined population-based administrative claims data indicating specific health service delivery to nearly 31 million Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries for 15 prevalent chronic conditions. A total of 67% had multimorbidity, which increased with age, from 50% for persons under age 65 years to 62% for those aged 65-74 years and 81.5% for those aged ≥85 years. A systematic review identified 16 other prevalence studies conducted in community samples that included older adults, with median prevalence of 63% and a mode of 67%. Prevalence differences between studies are probably due to methodological biases; no studies were comparable. Key methodological issues arise from elements of the case definition, including type and number of chronic conditions included, ascertainment methods, and source population. Standardized methods for measuring multimorbidity are needed to enable public health surveillance and prevention. Multimorbidity is associated with elevated risk of death, disability, poor functional status, poor quality of life, and adverse drug events. Additional research is needed to develop an understanding of causal pathways and to further develop and test potential clinical and population interventions targeting multimorbidity.
Keywords: aged; chronic disease; comorbidity; prevalence.
Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health 2013.