Identifying and visualising multimorbidity and comorbidity patterns in patients in the English National Health Service: a population-based study

Lancet Digit Health. 2023 Jan;5(1):e16-e27. doi: 10.1016/S2589-7500(22)00187-X. Epub 2022 Nov 29.

Abstract

Background: Globally, there is a paucity of multimorbidity and comorbidity data, especially for minority ethnic groups and younger people. We estimated the frequency of common disease combinations and identified non-random disease associations for all ages in a multiethnic population.

Methods: In this population-based study, we examined multimorbidity and comorbidity patterns stratified by ethnicity or race, sex, and age for 308 health conditions using electronic health records from individuals included on the Clinical Practice Research Datalink linked with the Hospital Episode Statistics admitted patient care dataset in England. We included individuals who were older than 1 year and who had been registered for at least 1 year in a participating general practice during the study period (between April 1, 2010, and March 31, 2015). We identified the most common combinations of conditions and comorbidities for index conditions. We defined comorbidity as the accumulation of additional conditions to an index condition over an individual's lifetime. We used network analysis to identify conditions that co-occurred more often than expected by chance. We developed online interactive tools to explore multimorbidity and comorbidity patterns overall and by subgroup based on ethnicity, sex, and age.

Findings: We collected data for 3 872 451 eligible patients, of whom 1 955 700 (50·5%) were women and girls, 1 916 751 (49·5%) were men and boys, 2 666 234 (68·9%) were White, 155 435 (4·0%) were south Asian, and 98 815 (2·6%) were Black. We found that a higher proportion of boys aged 1-9 years (132 506 [47·8%] of 277 158) had two or more diagnosed conditions than did girls in the same age group (106 982 [40·3%] of 265 179), but more women and girls were diagnosed with multimorbidity than were boys aged 10 years and older and men (1 361 232 [80·5%] of 1 690 521 vs 1 161 308 [70·8%] of 1 639 593). White individuals (2 097 536 [78·7%] of 2 666 234) were more likely to be diagnosed with two or more conditions than were Black (59 339 [60·1%] of 98 815) or south Asian individuals (93 617 [60·2%] of 155 435). Depression commonly co-occurred with anxiety, migraine, obesity, atopic conditions, deafness, soft-tissue disorders, and gastrointestinal disorders across all subgroups. Heart failure often co-occurred with hypertension, atrial fibrillation, osteoarthritis, stable angina, myocardial infarction, chronic kidney disease, type 2 diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Spinal fractures were most strongly non-randomly associated with malignancy in Black individuals, but with osteoporosis in White individuals. Hypertension was most strongly associated with kidney disorders in those aged 20-29 years, but with dyslipidaemia, obesity, and type 2 diabetes in individuals aged 40 years and older. Breast cancer was associated with different comorbidities in individuals from different ethnic groups. Asthma was associated with different comorbidities between males and females. Bipolar disorder was associated with different comorbidities in younger age groups compared with older age groups.

Interpretation: Our findings and interactive online tools are a resource for: patients and their clinicians, to prevent and detect comorbid conditions; research funders and policy makers, to redesign service provision, training priorities, and guideline development; and biomedical researchers and manufacturers of medicines, to provide leads for research into common or sequential pathways of disease and inform the design of clinical trials.

Funding: UK Research and Innovation, Medical Research Council, National Institute for Health and Care Research, Department of Health and Social Care, Wellcome Trust, British Heart Foundation, and The Alan Turing Institute.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Comorbidity
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension* / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multimorbidity
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • State Medicine