Increasing multimorbidity is often associated with declining physical functioning, with some studies showing a disproportionate impact on functioning when mental health conditions are present. More research is needed because most multimorbidity studies exclude mental health conditions.
This study aims to improve our understanding of the association between functional limitation and multimorbidity, including a comparison of those with multimorbidity that includes versus excludes mental health conditions.
This is a population-based, cross-sectional analysis of data from The Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging. Functional limitation was defined as the presence of any of 14 activities of daily living (ADLs) or instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs). Multimorbidity, measured by the number of chronic conditions, included mood and anxiety disorders. Logistic regression explored the association between multimorbidity (with and without mental health conditions) and functional limitation. Factor analysis identified common condition clusters to help understand clinical complexity in those with mood/anxiety disorders and the potential influences on functional limitation.
There were 51,338 participants, with a similar proportion of men and women (49% versus 51%) and 42% age 65 years or older. Fifteen percent (15%) had no chronic conditions and 17% had 5+. Ten percent (10%) reported at least one ADL or IADL limitation. Odds ratios (ORs) for functional limitation increased with multimorbidity and were generally higher for those with versus without mental health conditions (e.g., ORs from 1 to 5+ chronic conditions increased 1.9 to 15.8 for those with mood/anxiety disorders versus 1.8 to 10.2 for those without). Factor analysis showed that mood/anxiety conditions clustered with somatic conditions (e.g., migraines, bowel/gastrointestinal disorders).
This study found higher odds of functional limitation for those with multimorbidity that included versus excluded mental health conditions, at all levels of multimorbidity. It highlights the need for concurrent management of mental and physical comorbidities to prevent functional limitations and future decline. This approach is aligned with the NICE clinical assessment and management guidelines for people with multimorbidity.