Time Trends in Prevalence of Chronic Diseases and Multimorbidity Not Only due to Aging: Data from General Practices and Health Surveys

PLoS One. 2016 Aug 2;11(8):e0160264. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0160264. eCollection 2016.


Introduction: Chronic diseases and multimorbidity are common and expected to rise over the coming years. The objective of this study is to examine the time trend in the prevalence of chronic diseases and multimorbidity over the period 2001 till 2011 in the Netherlands, and the extent to which this can be ascribed to the aging of the population.

Methods: Monitoring study, using two data sources: 1) medical records of patients listed in a nationally representative network of general practices over the period 2002-2011, and 2) national health interview surveys over the period 2001-2011. Regression models were used to study trends in the prevalence-rates over time, with and without standardization for age.

Results: An increase from 34.9% to 41.8% (p<0.01) in the prevalence of chronic diseases was observed in the general practice registration over the period 2004-2011 and from 41.0% to 46.6% (p<0.01) based on self-reported diseases over the period 2001-2011. Multimorbidity increased from 12.7% to 16.2% (p<0.01) and from 14.3% to 17.5% (p<0.01), respectively. Aging of the population explained part of these trends: about one-fifth based on general practice data, and one-third for chronic diseases and half of the trend for multimorbidity based on health surveys.

Conclusions: The prevalence of chronic diseases and multimorbidity increased over the period 2001-2011. Aging of the population only explained part of the increase, implying that other factors such as health care and society-related developments are responsible for a substantial part of this rise.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / pathology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Electronic Health Records / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • General Practice / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Surveys / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Regression Analysis

Grant support

Statistical analyses for this study were funded by the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.