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Eur J Public Health. 2019 Feb 14. pii: ckz012. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/ckz012. [Epub ahead of print]

Do ethnic inequalities in multimorbidity reflect ethnic differences in socioeconomic status? The HELIUS study.

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Department of Public Health, Amsterdam UMC, Amsterdam Public Health (APH) Research Institute, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Department of Clinical Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, Amsterdam UMC, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.



The burden of multimorbidity is likely higher in ethnic minority populations, as most individual diseases are more prevalent in minority groups. However, information is scarce. We examined ethnic inequalities in multimorbidity, and investigated to what extent they reflect differences in socioeconomic status (SES).


We included Healthy Life in an Urban Setting study participants of Dutch (N = 4582), South-Asian Surinamese (N = 3258), African Surinamese (N = 4267), Ghanaian (N = 2282), Turkish (N = 3879) and Moroccan (N = 4094) origin (aged 18-70 years). Educational level, employment status, income situation and multimorbidity were defined based on questionnaires. We described the prevalence and examined age-adjusted ethnic inequalities in multimorbidity with logistic regression analyses. To assess the contribution of SES, we added SES indicators to the age-adjusted model.


The prevalence of multimorbidity ranged from 27.1 to 53.4% in men and from 38.5 to 69.6% in women. The prevalence of multimorbidity in most ethnic minority groups was comparable to the prevalence among Dutch participants who were 1-3 decades older. After adjustment for SES, the odds of multimorbidity remained significantly higher in ethnic minority groups. For instance, age-adjusted OR for multimorbidity for the Turkish compared to the Dutch changed from 4.43 (3.84-5.13) to 2.34 (1.99-2.75) in men and from 5.35 (4.69-6.10) to 2.94 (2.54-3.41) in women after simultaneous adjustment for all SES indicators.


We found a significantly higher prevalence of multimorbidity in ethnic minority men and women compared to Dutch, and results pointed to an earlier onset of multimorbidity in ethnic minority groups. These inequalities in multimorbidity were not fully accounted for by differences in SES.


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