How does sex influence multimorbidity? Secondary analysis of a large nationally representative dataset

Karolina Agur, Gary McLean, Kate Hunt, Bruce Guthrie, Stewart W. Mercer (Lead / Corresponding author)

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    Multimorbidity increases with age and is generally more common in women, but little is known about sex effects on the "typology" of multimorbidity. We have characterized multimorbidity in a large nationally representative primary care dataset in terms of sex in ten year age groups from 25 years to 75 years and over, in a cross-sectional analysis of multimorbidity type (physical-only, mental-only, mixed physical and mental; and commonest conditions) for 1,272,685 adults in Scotland. Our results show that women had more multimorbidity overall in every age group, which was most pronounced in the 45-54 years age group (women 26.5% vs. men 19.6%; difference 6.9 (95% CI 6.5 to 7.2). From the age of 45, physical-only multimorbidity was consistently more common in men, and physical-mental multimorbidity more common in women. The biggest difference in physical-mental multimorbidity was found in the 75 years and over group (women 30.9% vs. men 21.2%; difference 9.7 (95% CI 9.1 to 10.2). The commonest condition in women was depression until the age of 55 years, thereafter hypertension. In men, drugs misuse had the highest prevalence in those aged 25-34 years, depression for those aged 35-44 years, and hypertension for 45 years and over. Depression, pain, irritable bowel syndrome and thyroid disorders were more common in women than men across all age groups. We conclude that the higher overall prevalence of multimorbidity in women is mainly due to more mixed physical and mental health problems. The marked difference between the sexes over 75 years especially warrants further investigation.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number391
    Number of pages12
    JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
    Issue number4
    Early online date31 Mar 2016
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016


    • multimorbidity
    • sex
    • primary care


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