Multiple physical and mental health comorbidity in adults with intellectual disabilities

Sally-Ann Cooper, Gary McLean, Bruce Guthrie, Alex McConnachie, Stewart Mercer, Frank Sullivan, Jill Morrison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Adults with intellectual disabilities have increased early mortality compared with the general population. However, their extent of multimorbidity (two or more additional conditions) compared with the general population is unknown, particularly with regards to physical ill-health, as are associations between comorbidities, neighbourhood deprivation, and age.METHODS: We analysed primary health-care data on 1,424,378 adults registered with 314 representative Scottish practices. Data on intellectual disabilities, 32 physical, and six mental health conditions were extracted. We generated standardised prevalence rates by age-groups, gender, and neighbourhood deprivation, then calculated odds ratio (OR) and 95 % confidence intervals (95 % CI) for adults with intellectual disabilities compared to those without, for the prevalence, and number of condition.RESULTS: Eight thousand fourteen (0.56 %) had intellectual disabilities, of whom only 31.8 % had no other conditions compared to 51.6 % without intellectual disabilities (OR 0.26, 95 % 0.25-0.27). The intellectual disabilities group were significantly more likely to have more conditions, with the biggest difference found for three conditions (10.9 % versus 6.8 %; OR 2.28, 95 % CI 2.10-2.46). Fourteen physical conditions were significantly more prevalent, and four cardiovascular conditions occurred less frequently, as did any cancers, and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. Five of the six mental health conditions were significantly more prevalent. For the adults with intellectual disabilities, no gradient was seen in extent of multimorbidity with increasing neighbourhood deprivation; indeed findings were similar in the most affluent and most deprived areas. Co-morbidity increased with age but is highly prevalent at all ages, being similar at age 20-25 to 50-54 year olds in the general population.CONCLUSIONS: Multi-morbidity burden is greater, occurs at much earlier age, and the profile of health conditions differs, for adults with intellectual disabilities compared with the general population. There is no association with neighbourhood deprivation; people with intellectual disabilities need focussed services irrespective of where they live, and at a much earlier age than the general population. They require specific initiatives to reduce inequalities.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBMC Family Practice
Publication statusPublished - 27 Aug 2015


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