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J Clin Epidemiol. 2001 Jul;54(7):661-74.

Causes and consequences of comorbidity: a review.

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  • 1National Institute of Public Health and the Environment, P.O. Box 1, 3720 BA, Bilthoven, The Netherlands.


A literature search was carried out to identify and summarize the existing information on causes and consequences of comorbidity of chronic somatic diseases. A selection of 82 articles met our inclusion criteria. Very little work has been done on the causes of comorbidity. On the other hand, much work has been done on consequences of comorbidity, although comorbidity is seldom the main subject of study. We found comorbidity in general to be associated with mortality, quality of life, and health care. The consequences of specific disease combinations, however, depended on many factors. We recommend more etiological studies on shared risk factors, especially for those comorbidities that occur at a higher rate than expected. New insights in this field can lead to better prevention strategies. Health care workers need to take comorbid diseases into account in monitoring and treating patients. Future studies on consequences of comorbidity should investigate specific disease combinations.

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