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Open Access Research article

Multimorbidity - not just an older person's issue. Results from an Australian biomedical study

Anne W Taylor12*, Kay Price3, Tiffany K Gill12, Robert Adams4, Rhiannon Pilkington1, Natalie Carrangis5, Zumin Shi12 and David Wilson4

Author Affiliations

1 Population Research & Outcome Studies, South Australian Department of Health, Adelaide, Australia

2 Department of Medicine, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia

3 School of Nursing & Midwifery, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia

4 Health Observatory, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia

5 Health Promotion, South Australian Department of Health, Adelaide, Australia

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:718  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-718

Published: 22 November 2010

Abstract

Background

Multimorbidity, the simultaneous occurrence of two or more chronic conditions, is usually associated with older persons. This research assessed multimorbidity across a range of ages so that planners are informed and appropriate prevention programs, management strategies and health service/health care planning can be implemented.

Methods

Multimorbidity was assessed across three age groups from data collected in a major biomedical cohort study (North West Adelaide Health Study). Using randomly selected adults, diabetes, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease were determined clinically and cardio-vascular disease, osteoporosis, arthritis and mental health by self-report (ever been told by a doctor). A range of demographic, social, risk and protective factors including high blood pressure and high cholesterol (assessed bio-medically), health service use, quality of life and medication use (linked to government records) were included in the multivariate modelling.

Results

Overall 4.4% of the 20-39 year age group, 15.0% of the 40-59 age group and 39.2% of those aged 60 years of age or older had multimorbidity (17.1% of the total). Of those with multimorbidity, 42.1% were aged less than 60 years of age. A variety of variables were included in the final logistic regression models for the three age groups including family structure, marital status, education attainment, country of birth, smoking status, obesity measurements, medication use, health service utilisation and overall health status.

Conclusions

Multimorbidity is not just associated with older persons and flexible care management support systems, appropriate guidelines and care-coordination programs are required across a broader age range. Issues such as health literacy and polypharamacy are also important considerations. Future research is required into assessing multimorbidity across the life course, prevention of complications and assessment of appropriate self-care strategies.