Incidence and Predictors of Multimorbidity in the Elderly: A Population-Based Longitudinal Study

Background

We aimed to calculate 3-year incidence of multimorbidity, defined as the development of two or more chronic diseases in a population of older people free from multimorbidity at baseline. Secondly, we aimed to identify predictors of incident multimorbidity amongst life-style related indicators, medical conditions and biomarkers.

Methods

Data were gathered from 418 participants in the first follow up of the Kungsholmen Project (Stockholm, Sweden, 1991–1993, 78+ years old) who were not affected by multimorbidity (149 had none disease and 269 one disease), including a social interview, a neuropsychological battery and a medical examination.

Results

After 3 years, 33.6% of participants who were without disease and 66.4% of those with one disease at baseline, developed multimorbidity: the incidence rate was 12.6 per 100 person-years (95% CI: 9.2–16.7) and 32.9 per 100 person-years (95% CI: 28.1–38.3), respectively. After adjustments, worse cognitive function (OR, 95% CI, for 1 point lower Mini-Mental State Examination: 1.22, 1.00–1.48) was associated with increased risk of multimorbidity among subjects with no disease at baseline. Higher age was the only predictor of multimorbidity in persons with one disease at baseline.

Conclusions

Multimorbidity has a high incidence at old age. Mental health-related symptoms are likely predictors of multimorbidity, suggesting a strong impact of mental disorders on the health of older people.