Multimorbidity and mortality: A data science perspective

J Multimorb Comorb. 2022 Jun 1;12:26335565221105431. doi: 10.1177/26335565221105431. eCollection 2022 Jan-Dec.


BACKGROUND: With multimorbidity becoming the norm rather than the exception, the management of multiple chronic diseases is a major challenge facing healthcare systems worldwide.

METHODS: Using a large, nationally representative database of electronic medical records from the United Kingdom spanning the years 2005-2016 and consisting over 4.5 million patients, we apply statistical methods and network analysis to identify comorbid pairs and triads of diseases and identify clusters of chronic conditions across different demographic groups. Unlike many previous studies, which generally adopt cross-sectional designs based on single snapshots of closed cohorts, we adopt a longitudinal approach to examine temporal changes in the patterns of multimorbidity. In addition, we perform survival analysis to examine the impact of multimorbidity on mortality.

RESULTS: The proportion of the population with multimorbidity has increased by approximately 2.5 percentage points over the last decade, with more than 17% having at least two chronic morbidities. We find that the prevalence and the severity of multimorbidity, as quantified by the number of co-occurring chronic conditions, increase progressively with age. Stratifying by socioeconomic status, we find that people living in more deprived areas are more likely to be multimorbid compared to those living in more affluent areas at all ages. The same trend holds consistently for all years in our data. In general, hypertension, diabetes, and respiratory-related diseases demonstrate high in-degree centrality and eigencentrality, while cardiac disorders show high out-degree centrality.

CONCLUSIONS: We use data-driven methods to characterize multimorbidity patterns in different demographic groups and their evolution over the past decade. In addition to a number of strongly associated comorbid pairs (e.g., cardiac-vascular and cardiac-metabolic disorders), we identify three principal clusters: a respiratory cluster, a cardiovascular cluster, and a mixed cardiovascular-renal-metabolic cluster. These are supported by established pathophysiological mechanisms and shared risk factors, and largely confirm and expand on the results of existing studies in the medical literature. Our findings contribute to a more quantitative understanding of the epidemiology of multimorbidity, an important pre-requisite for developing more effective medical care and policy for multimorbid patients.

PMID:35668849 | PMC:PMC9163746 | DOI:10.1177/26335565221105431


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