Multimorbidity and depression: A systematic review and meta-analysis

J Affect Disord. 2017 Oct 15;221:36-46. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2017.06.009. Epub 2017 Jun 14.


Background: Multimorbidity, the presence of two or more chronic conditions, is increasingly common and complicates the assessment and management of depression. The aim was to investigate the relationship between multimorbidity and depression.

Method: A systematic literature search was conducted using the databases; PsychINFO, Medline, Embase, CINAHL and Cochrane Central. Results were meta-analysed to determine risk for a depressive disorder or depressive symptoms in people with multimorbidity.

Results: Forty articles were identified as eligible (n = 381527). The risk for depressive disorder was twice as great for people with multimorbidity compared to those without multimorbidity [RR: 2.13 (95% CI 1.62-2.80) p<0.001] and three times greater for people with multimorbidity compared to those without any chronic physical condition [RR: 2.97 (95% CI 2.06-4.27) p<0.001]. There was a 45% greater odds of having a depressive disorder with each additional chronic condition compared to the odds of having a depressive disorder with no chronic physical condition [OR: 1.45 (95% CI 1.28-1.64) p<0.001]. A significant but weak association was found between the number of chronic conditions and depressive symptoms [r = 0.26 (95% CI 0.18-0.33) p <0.001].

Limitations: Although valid measures of depression were used in these studies, the majority assessed the presence or absence of multimorbidity by self-report measures.

Conclusions: Depression is two to three times more likely in people with multimorbidity compared to people without multimorbidity or those who have no chronic physical condition. Greater knowledge of this risk supports identification and management of depression.

Keywords: Chronic illness; Depression; Meta-analysis; Multimorbidity.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease / psychology
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Multimorbidity*
  • Risk Factors