Prevalence of and factors associated with multimorbidity among 18 101 adults in the South East Asia Community Observatory Health and Demographic Surveillance System in Malaysia: a population-based, cross-sectional study of the MUTUAL consortium

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OBJECTIVES: To assess the prevalence and factors associated with multimorbidity in a community-dwelling general adult population on a large Health and Demographic Surveillance System (HDSS) scale. DESIGN: Population-based cross-sectional study. SETTING: South East Asia Community Observatory HDSS site in Malaysia. PARTICIPANTS: Of 45 246 participants recruited from 13 431 households, 18 101 eligible adults aged 18-97 years (mean age 47 years, 55.6% female) were included. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The main outcome was prevalence of multimorbidity. Multimorbidity was defined as the coexistence of two or more chronic conditions per individual. A total of 13 chronic diseases were selected and were further classified into 11 medical conditions to account for multimorbidity. The conditions were heart disease, stroke, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, chronic kidney disease, musculoskeletal disorder, obesity, asthma, vision problem, hearing problem and physical mobility problem. Risk factors for multimorbidity were also analysed. RESULTS: Of the study cohort, 28.5% people lived with multimorbidity. The individual prevalence of the chronic conditions ranged from 1.0% to 24.7%, with musculoskeletal disorder (24.7%), obesity (20.7%) and hypertension (18.4%) as the most prevalent chronic conditions. The number of chronic conditions increased linearly with age (p<0.001). In the logistic regression model, multimorbidity is associated with female sex (adjusted OR 1.28, 95% CI 1.17 to 1.40, p<0.001), education levels (primary education compared with no education: adjusted OR 0.63, 95% CI 0.53 to 0.74; secondary education: adjusted OR 0.60, 95% CI 0.51 to 0.70; tertiary education: adjusted OR 0.65, 95% CI 0.54 to 0.80; p<0.001) and employment status (working adults compared with retirees: adjusted OR 0.70, 95% CI 0.60 to 0.82, p<0.001), in addition to age (adjusted OR 1.05, 95% CI 1.05 to 1.05, p<0.001). CONCLUSIONS: The current single-disease services in primary and secondary care should be accompanied by strategies to address complexities associated with multimorbidity, taking into account the factors associated with multimorbidity identified. Future research is needed to identify the most commonly occurring clusters of chronic diseases and their risk factors to develop more efficient and effective multimorbidity prevention and treatment strategies.