Article Title

Multimorbidity in patients attending 2 Australian primary care practices



Multiple chronic conditions in a single patient can be a challenging health burden. We aimed to examine patterns and prevalence of multimorbidity among patients attending 2 large Australian primary care practices and to estimate disease severity burden using the Cumulative Illness Rating Scale (CIRS).


Using published CIRS guidelines and a disease severity index calculated for each individual, we extracted data from the medical records of all 7,247 patients (58.5% female) seen over 6 months in 2008 who were rated for chronic conditions across 14 anatomical domains.


Fifty-two percent of patients had multimorbidity in 2 or more CIRS domains, ranging from 20.6% if younger than 25 years, 43.7% if aged 25 to 44 years, 75.5% if aged 45 to 64 years, 87.5% if aged 65 to 74 years, and 97.1% if aged 75 years and older. Using a cutoff of 3 or more CIRS domains, 34.5% had multimorbidity ranging from 4.8% if younger than 25 years, 22.3% if aged 25 to 44 years, 56.1% if aged 45 to 64 years, 74.6% if aged 65 to 74 years, and 92.0% if aged 75 years and older. Musculoskeletal, singularly or in combination with others, was the commonest morbidity domain. The moderate severity index category increased with increasing age.


Multimorbidity is a significant problem in men and women across all age-groups, and the moderate severity index increases with age. The musculoskeletal domain was most commonly affected. Mild and moderate severity index categories may underrepresent disease burden. Severity burden assessment in the primary care setting needs to take into account the severity index, as well as levels of domain severity within the index categories.


multimorbidity, primary care, general practice, chronic disease, prevalence, severity index

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