Multimorbidity, polyiatrogenesis, and COVID-19

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To date, the strongest predictor for dying with COVID-19 is suffering from several chronic disorders prior to the viral infection. Pre-existing multimorbidity is highly correlated with socioeconomic inequality. In turn, having several chronic conditions is closely linked to multiple medication intake, especially in richer countries with good access to biomedical care. Owing to its vertical structure, biomedicine often risks giving multiple treatments in an uncoordinated way. Such lack of integrated care can create complex forms of iatrogenic harm. Multimorbidity is often exacerbated by a pharmaceuticalization of social deprivation in place of integrated care. In this article, I explore the possibility that clusters of overmedication are a contributing factor to higher death rates from COVID-19, especially in poorer areas within richer countries.Anthropological perspectives on the social embeddedness of multimorbidity and multiple medication use can expand our understanding of who is most vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMedical Anthropology Quarterly
Early online date4 Dec 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Dec 2020


  • COVID-19
  • multimorbidity
  • social inequality
  • polypharmacy
  • iatrogenesis


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