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Multiple long-term conditions

The challenge of multiple long-term conditions (often called multimorbidity) is one of the biggest currently facing the UK healthcare system.

The term multiple long-term conditions or, multimorbidity broadly refers to the existence of two or more medical conditions in a single individual and can include both physical and mental health.

For many regions of the world there is evidence that a substantial, and likely growing, proportion of the adult population is affected by more than one chronic condition, at least in part, because of population ageing.

The challenges of multiple long-term conditions are considerable for both patients, carers and the healthcare system including:

  • Those living with multiple conditions often experience reduced well-being and quality of life and have a high “treatment burden’. Commonly there is a need to access care from multiple providers, comply with complex treatment plans involving multiple drugs and coordinate other aspects of their own care.
  • For the healthcare system, treating multiple conditions in an individual is complex with consideration needed for the adjustment of treatments in the face of co-prescribing in order to avoid worsening symptoms or adding new problems related to combinations of medication. Read about multimorbidity and hospital admissions
  • Those living with multiple health conditions may be more susceptible to other illnesses, as well as being more seriously impacted by them; as we have seen COVID-19 has disproportionately affected older people and those living with underlying conditions.

At the NIHR Newcastle BRC, our research across ageing and long-term conditions examines the underlying causes of conditions, including for those that can appear to be unrelated to each other, or those that require different management approaches. We seek to understand more about the basic biology of ageing, helping us to learn more about the underlying causes of multiple conditions. This knowledge can help us to develop potential interventions or identify diseases with the same underlying mechanisms.

By understanding which interventions are effective in reducing the number and impact of chronic conditions we face as we age, we aim to find better ways to treat multiple conditions, including using fewer treatments to reduce side effects and treatment burden, while helping improve overall health and well-being.