Risk factors for the progression to multimorbidity among UK urban working-age adults. A community cohort study

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The progression of long-term conditions (LTCs) from zero-to-one (initiation), and from one-to-many (progression)are common trajectories that impact a person’s quality of life including their ability to work. This study aimed to explore the demographic, socioeconomic, psychosocial, and health-related determinants of LTC initiation and progression, with a focus on work participation. 


Data from 622 working-age adults who had completed two waves (baseline and follow-up) of the South-East London Community Health survey were analysed. Chi square tests and multinomial logistic regression were used to describe the associations between self-reported demographic, socioeconomic, psychosocial, and health-related variables, and the progression of LTCs.


Small social networks, an increased number of stressful life events, low self-rated health, functional impairment, and increased somatic symptom severity were all associated with both the progression from zero-to-one LTC and from one LTC to multimorbidity (two or more LTCs). Renting accommodation (RRR 1.73 [95% CI 1.03–2.90]), smoking (RRR 1.91 [95% CI 1.16–3.14]) and being overweight (RRR 1.88 [95% CL 1.12–3.16]) were unique risk factors of developing initial LTCs, whereas low income (RRR 2.53 [95% CI 1.11–5.80]), working part-time (RRR 2.82 ([95% CL 1.12–7.10]), being unemployed (RRR 4.83 [95% CI 1.69–13.84]), and making an early work exit (RRR 16.86 [95% CI 3.99–71.30]) all increased the risk of progressing from one LTC to multimorbidity compared to being employed full-time. At follow-up, depression was the most prevalent LTC in the unemployed group whereas musculoskeletal conditions were the most prevalent in those working.


The journey to multimorbidity is complex, with both common and unique risk factors. Non-full-time employment was associated with an increased risk of progression to multimorbidity. Future research should explore the risk and benefit pathways between employment and progression of LTCs. Interventions to prevent progression of LTCs should include mitigation of modifiable risk factors such as social isolation.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0291295
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 8 Sept 2023

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