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Author Archives: Tora Grauers Willadsen

Risk factors and symptoms in the definition of multimorbidity

By Tora Grauers Willadsen and Niels de Fine Olivarius
We want to share our new paper”The role of diseases, risk factors and symptoms in the definition of multimorbidity – a systematic review” (Scandinavian Journal of Primary Health Care 2016 March 8, : 1-10) here on the International Research Community on Multimorbidity’s (IRCMo) site.
Our objective was to explore how multimorbidity is defined in the scientific literature, with a focus on the role of diseases, risk factors, and symptoms in the definitions. We used systematic review as design. We searched MEDLINE (PubMed), Embase, and The Cochrane Library for relevant publications up until October 2013. One author extracted the information. Ambiguities were resolved, and consensus reached with one co-author. Our main outcome measures were: cut-off point for the number of conditions included in the definitions of multimorbidity; setting; data sources; number, kind, duration, and severity of diseases, risk factors, and symptoms.
We had the following results: In 61 (37 %) articles, out of the 163 articles we included, the cut-off point for multimorbidity was two or more conditions (diseases, risk factors, or symptoms). The most frequently used setting was the general population (68 articles, 42%), and primary care (41 articles, 25%). Sources of data were primarily self-reports (56 articles, 42%). Out of the 163 articles selected, 115 had individually constructed multimorbidity definitions, and in these articles diseases occurred in all definitions. As earlier found diabetes was the most frequent disease. Risk factors occurred in 98 (85%) and symptoms in 71 (62%) of the definitions. The severity of conditions was used in 26 (23%) of the definitions, but in different ways.
This review demonstrated, as shown previously, a heterogeneous definition of multimorbidity. Furthermore, it shows that risk factors are more often included than symptoms and that severity of conditions is seldom included in the definition. The fundamental role of risk factors in the definition of multimorbidity is one reason for the high prevalence of multimorbidity. Symptoms and severity are included less often and this contributes to making the existing definitions more usable for epidemiologists than for clinicians and patients. We believe this review adds to the discussion about more comprehensive and clinically relevant multimorbidity definitions.
To access the full manuscript, please click the following link:
At The research Unit for General Practice and Department of General Practice at The University of Copenhagen we are working on several projects about multimorbidity, both quantitative register-based studies including the whole Danish population, and qualitative studies. You are very welcome to contact us for more information. E-mail: olivarius@sund.ku.dk