Original Study| Volume 21, ISSUE 9, P1282-1287.e2, September 2020

Associations Between Somatic Multimorbidity Patterns and Depression in a Longitudinal Cohort of Middle-Aged and Older Chinese

Published:January 13, 2020DOI:



      Depressive symptoms are commonly seen among patients with multiple chronic somatic conditions, or somatic multimorbidity (SMM); however, little is known about the relationships between depressive symptoms and different SMM combinations. Our study aimed to delineate the patterns of SMM and their longitudinal associations with depressive symptoms among a nationally representative sample of middle-aged and older Chinese adults.


      We employed a longitudinal design.

      Setting and Participants

      Older adults (N = 10,084) aged ≥45 years from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study 2011-2015 participated (mean age = 57.7 years at baseline; 53.3% men).


      Sixteen chronic somatic conditions were ascertained at baseline via questionnaires. Depression was assessed with the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale at baseline and during follow-up. Patterns of SMM were identified via exploratory factor analyses. Generalized estimating equations were used to evaluate the longitudinal associations between patterns of SMM and the presence of depressive symptoms at follow-up.


      Compared with participants with no somatic condition, those with 1, 2, and 3 or more somatic conditions had a 21%, 66%, and 111% greater risk, respectively, for the presence of depressive symptoms. Increased factor scores for 4 patterns identified, cardio-metabolic pattern [adjusted odds ratio (AOR) 1.12, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.06, 1.20], respiratory pattern (AOR 1.25, 95% CI 1.17, 1.33), arthritic-digestive-visual pattern (AOR 1.29, 95% CI 1.22, 1.37), and hepatic-renal-skeletal pattern (AOR 1.09, 95% CI 1.02, 1.16), were all associated with a higher risk of having depressive symptoms.

      Conclusions and Implications

      All SMM patterns were independently associated with depression among middle-aged and older Chinese adults, with greater odds for people with comorbid arthritic-digestive-visual conditions and respiratory conditions. Clinical practitioners should treat the middle-aged and older population under a multiple-condition framework combining SMM and mental disorders.


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