Due to increasing life expectancy and improved survival from acute conditions, the number of people living with multimorbidity -the coexistence of two or more chronic health conditions- is rising. The growth rate of multimorbidity presents a serious challenge for health-care systems, as they are largely designed to care for patients with single conditions.  

A recent Health Data Research UK (HDR UK) funded paper, featured in The Lancet Public Health, examined the reporting and measurement of multimorbidity across 566 peer-reviewed studies and found that the global measurement of multimorbidity is poorly reported and highly variable, calling for consistent reporting of measure definitions and consensus studies in order to help improve research and the lives of those living with multimorbidity. 

Predicted to be the largest systematic review of its kind to date, this paper examined the definition and measurement of multimorbidity at international level, aiming to provide an insight into multimorbidity that was previously unavailable. The paper reviewed how multimorbidity has been measured prior, as well as the variations in chronic conditions.  

Findings from the paper demonstrate that the measurement of multimorbidity is poorly reported and highly variable, with one in eight studies not reporting which conditions were included in their measurement. Only eight conditions were included by more than half of the studies and fewer than half of the studies included any singular mental health condition.  

Authors of the paper call for consistent reporting of measure definitions by journals, as well as consensus studies in order to define core and study-dependent conditions in the measures of multimorbidity.  

Professor Colin McCowan, Professor of Health Data Science at University of St Andrews, said: 

This work highlights that multimorbidity is an internationally recognised problem. It also illustrates one of the key challenges facing researchers, namely that learning from previous work is difficult, because multimorbidity can mean so many different things as it is measured so differently.  This review, which involved researchers from all over the UK, will help us make better sense of previous work, allowing us to build our knowledge and understanding to better help patients and health services manage multimorbidity.” 

Read the full paper