Risk factors for multimorbidity in adulthood: A systematic review

Tazzeo C., Zucchelli A., Vetrano D. L., Demurtas J., Smith L., Schoene D., ...More

Ageing Research Reviews, vol.91, 2023 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Review
  • Volume: 91
  • Publication Date: 2023
  • Doi Number: 10.1016/j.arr.2023.102039
  • Journal Name: Ageing Research Reviews
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, PASCAL, EMBASE, MEDLINE
  • Keywords: Multimorbidity, Multiple chronic diseases, Risk factors
  • Hacettepe University Affiliated: Yes


Background: Multimorbidity, the coexistence of multiple chronic diseases in an individual, is highly prevalent and challenging for healthcare systems. However, its risk factors remain poorly understood. Objective: To systematically review studies reporting multimorbidity risk factors. Methods: A PRISMA-compliant systematic review was conducted, searching electronic databases (MEDLINE, EMBASE, Web of Science, Scopus). Inclusion criteria were studies addressing multimorbidity transitions, trajectories, continuous disease counts, and specific patterns. Non-human studies and participants under 18 were excluded. Associations between risk factors and multimorbidity onset were reported. Results: Of 20,806 identified studies, 68 were included, with participants aged 18–105 from 23 countries. Nine risk factor categories were identified, including demographic, socioeconomic, and behavioral factors. Older age, low education, obesity, hypertension, depression, low pysical function were generally positively associated with multimorbidity. Results for factors like smoking, alcohol consumption, and dietary patterns were inconsistent. Study quality was moderate, with 16.2% having low risk of bias. Conclusions: Several risk factors seem to be consistently associated with an increased risk of accumulating chronic diseases over time. However, heterogeneity in settings, exposure and outcome, and baseline health of participants hampers robust conclusions.