Background: Multimorbidity, the co-occurrence of two or more chronic conditions, is common among older adults and is known to be associated with high costs and gaps in quality of care. Population-based estimates of multimorbidity are not readily available, which makes future planning a challenge. We aimed to estimate the population-based prevalence and trends of multimorbidity in Ontario, Canada and to examine patterns in the co-occurrence of chronic conditions.
Methods: This retrospective cohort study includes all Ontarians (aged 0 to 105 years) with at least one of 16 common chronic conditions. Descriptive statistics were used to examine and compare the prevalence of multimorbidity by age and number of conditions in 2003 and 2009. The co-occurrence of chronic conditions among individuals with multimorbidity was also explored.
Results: The prevalence of multimorbidity among Ontarians rose from 17.4% in 2003 to 24.3% in 2009, a 40% increase. This increase over time was evident across all age groups. Within individual chronic conditions, multimorbidity rates ranged from 44% to 99%. Remarkably, there were no dominant patterns of co-occurring conditions.
Conclusion: The high prevalence of multimorbidity and numerous combinations of conditions suggests that single, disease-oriented management programs may be less effective or efficient tools for high quality care compared to person-centered approaches.