Multimorbidity, ageing and mortality: Normative data and cohort study in an American population

Walter A. Rocca, Brandon R. Grossardt, Cynthia M. Boyd, Alanna M. Chamberlain, William V. Bobo, Jennifer L. St Sauver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives To describe the percentile distribution of multimorbidity across age by sex, race and ethnicity, and to demonstrate the utility of multimorbidity percentiles to predict mortality. Design Population-based descriptive study and cohort study. Setting Olmsted County, Minnesota (USA). Participants We used the medical records-linkage system of the Rochester Epidemiology Project (REP; to identify all residents of Olmsted County, Minnesota who reached one or more birthdays between 1 January 2005 and 31 December 2014 (10 years). Methods For each person, we obtained the count of chronic conditions (out of 20 conditions) present on each birthday by extracting all of the diagnostic codes received in the 5 years before the index birthday from the electronic indexes of the REP. To compare each person's count to peers of same age, the counts were transformed into percentiles of the total population and displayed graphically across age by sex, race and ethnicity. In addition, quintiles 1, 2, 4 and 5 were compared with quintile 3 (reference) to predict the risk of death at 1 year, 5 years and through end of follow-up using time-to-event analyses. Follow-up was passive using the REP. Results We identified 238 010 persons who experienced a total of 1 458 094 birthdays during the study period (median of 6 birthdays per person; IQR 3-10). The percentiles of multimorbidity across age did not vary noticeably by sex, race or ethnicity. In general, there was an increased risk of mortality at 1 and 5 years for quintiles 4 and 5 of multimorbidity. The risk of mortality for quintile 5 was greater for younger age groups and for women. Conclusions The assignment of multimorbidity percentiles to persons in a population may be a simple and intuitive tool to assess relative health status, and to predict short-term mortality, especially in younger persons and in women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere042633
JournalBMJ open
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 19 2021


  • epidemiology
  • general medicine (see internal medicine)
  • geriatric medicine
  • statistics & research methods

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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