Impact of body mass index on prevalence of multimorbidity in primary care: cohort study

Fam Pract. 2014 Feb;31(1):38-43. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmt061. Epub 2013 Oct 16.


Background: Multimorbidity is the co-occurrence of long-term conditions. Obesity is associated with an increased risk of long-term conditions including type 2 diabetes and depression.

Objective: To quantify the association between body mass index (BMI) category and multimorbidity in a large cohort registered in primary care.

Methods: The sample comprised primary care electronic health records of adults aged ≥30 years, sampled from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink between 2005 and 2011. Multimorbidity was defined as the co-occurrence of ≥2 of 11 conditions affecting seven organ systems. Age- and sex-standardized prevalence of multimorbidity was estimated by BMI category. Adjusted odds ratios associating BMI with additional morbidity were estimated adjusting for socioeconomic deprivation and smoking.

Results: The sample comprised 300 006 adults. After excluding participants with BMI never recorded, data were analysed for 223 089 (74%) contributing 1 374 109 person-years. In normal weight men, the standardized prevalence of multimorbidity was 23%, rising to 27% in overweight, 33% in category I obesity, 38% in category II and 44% in category III obesity. In women, the corresponding values were 28%, 34%, 41%, 45% and 51%. In category III obesity, the adjusted odds, relative to normal BMI, were 2.24 (2.13-2.36) for a first condition; 2.63 (2.51-2.76) for a second condition and 3.09 (2.92-3.28) for three or more conditions. In a cross-sectional analysis, 32% of multimorbidity was attributable to overweight and obesity.

Conclusions: Multiple morbidity is highly associated with increasing BMI category and obesity, highlighting the potential for targeted primary and secondary prevention interventions in primary care.

Keywords: Cardiovascular diseases; comorbidity; diabetes mellitus; family practice; obesity; primary health care..

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Comorbidity
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Overweight / epidemiology
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data
  • Prevalence
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Thinness / epidemiology*
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology