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BMC Geriatr. 2014 Jan 28;14:10. doi: 10.1186/1471-2318-14-10.

A claims data-based comparison of comorbidity in individuals with and without dementia.

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  • 1Institute of Health Economics and Health Care Management, Helmholtz Zentrum M√ľnchen, Ingolstaedter Landstrasse 1, 85764 Neuherberg, Germany.



Multimorbidity is common in advanced age, and is usually associated with negative - yet to some extent preventable - health outcomes. Detecting comorbid conditions is especially difficult in individuals with dementia, as they might not always be able to sufficiently express discomfort. This study compares relevant comorbidity complexes in elderly people with and without dementia, with a particular look at gender- and living environment-specific differences. Moreover, associations between selected comorbid conditions and dementia are reviewed more closely.


Using 2006 claims data from a large German Statutory Health Insurance fund, 9,139 individuals with dementia and 28,614 age- and gender-matched control subjects aged 65 years and older were identified. A total of 30 comorbidity complexes were defined based on ICD-10 codes. Corresponding prevalence rates were calculated, and the association between a distinct condition and dementia was evaluated via logistic regression in the overall sample as well as in analyses stratified by gender and living environment.


Individuals with dementia were more likely to be diagnosed with 15 comorbidity complexes, including Parkinson's, stroke, diabetes, atherosclerosis (supposed dementia risk factors) or fluids and electrolyte disorders, insomnia, incontinence, pneumonia, fractures and injuries (supposed sequelae). In contrast, they were less likely to be diagnosed with 11 other conditions, which included vision and hearing problems, diseases of the musculoskeletal system, lipoprotein disorders and hypertension. In a gender-stratified analysis, the patterns remained largely the same, but a bigger comorbidity gap between cases and control subjects emerged in the male population. Restricting the analysis to community-living individuals did not lead to any substantial changes.


Besides strengthening the evidence on accepted dementia risk factors and sequelae, the analyses point to particular conditions that are likely to remain untreated or even undiagnosed. This issue seems to affect male and female individuals with dementia to varying degrees. Raising awareness of these conditions is important to possibly preventing comorbidity-associated complications and disease progression in dementia patients. To more comprehensively understand the mutual interactions between dementia and comorbidity, further research on diagnostic and treatment attitudes regarding comorbidity in dementia patients and on their gender-specific health-seeking behaviour seems to be required.

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