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BACKGROUND: Little is known about the frequency and types of disease clusters involving major chronic diseases that contribute to multimorbidity in China. We examined the frequency of disease clusters involving major chronic diseases and their relationship with age and socioeconomic status in 0.5 million Chinese adults. METHODS: Multimorbidity was defined as the presence of at least two or more of five major chronic diseases: stroke, ischaemic heart disease (IHD), diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cancer. Multimorbid disease clusters were estimated using both self-reported doctor-diagnosed diseases at enrolment and incident cases during 10-year follow-up. Frequency of multimorbidity was assessed overall and by age, sex, region, education and income. Association rule mining (ARM) and latent class analysis (LCA) were used to assess clusters of the five major diseases. RESULTS: Overall, 11% of Chinese adults had two or more major chronic diseases, and the frequency increased with age (11%, 24% and 33% at age 50-59, 60-69 and 70-79 years, respectively). Multimorbidity was more common in men than women (12% vs 11%) and in those living in urban than in rural areas (12% vs 10%), and was inversely related to levels of education. Stroke and IHD were the most frequent combinations, followed by diabetes and stroke. The patterns of self-reported disease clusters at baseline were similar to those that were recorded during the first 10 years of follow-up. CONCLUSIONS: Cardiometabolic and cardiorespiratory diseases were most common disease clusters. Understanding the nature of such clusters could have implications for future prevention strategies.

Original publication




Journal article


J Multimorb Comorb

Publication Date





China, Chronic disease, frequency, multimorbidity, non-communicable disease