Symptom burden in community-dwelling older people with multimorbidity: a cross-sectional study

BMC Geriatr. 2015 Jan 5:15:1. doi: 10.1186/1471-2318-15-1.


Background: Globally, the population is ageing and lives with several chronic diseases for decades. A high symptom burden is associated with a high use of healthcare, admissions to nursing homes, and reduced quality of life. The aims of this study were to describe the multidimensional symptom profile and symptom burden in community-dwelling older people with multimorbidity, and to describe factors related to symptom burden.

Methods: A cross-sectional study including 378 community-dwelling people ≥ 75 years, who had been hospitalized ≥ 3 times during the previous year, had ≥ 3 diagnoses in their medical records. The Memorial Symptom Assessment Scale was used to assess the prevalence, frequency, severity, distress and symptom burden of 31 symptoms. A multiple linear regression was performed to identify factors related to total symptom burden.

Results: The mean number of symptoms per participant was 8.5 (4.6), and the mean total symptom burden score was 0.62 (0.41). Pain was the symptom with the highest prevalence, frequency, severity and distress. Half of the study group reported the prevalence of lack of energy and a dry mouth. Poor vision, likelihood of depression, and diagnoses of the digestive system were independently related to the total symptom burden score.

Conclusion: The older community-dwelling people with multimorbidity in this study suffered from a high symptom burden with a high prevalence of pain. Persons with poor vision, likelihood of depression, and diseases of the digestive system are at risk of a higher total symptom burden and might need age-specific standardized guidelines for appropriate management.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Comorbidity*
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Independent Living*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Prevalence
  • Symptom Assessment