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Background: multi-morbidity is an increasing challenge in western medicine and has the potential to impact patients' quality of life, treatment options and compliance with medications. The aim of this study was to identify the early-life predictors of long-term multi-morbidity in an historical cohort, the Hertfordshire Cohort Study (HCS). Methods: perinatal and infant health records were kept on all children born in Hertfordshire between 1931 and 1939. Participants who were still alive in 1998 were recruited to the HCS and data collected on major chronic diseases. They were subsequently followed up in the Clinical Outcomes Study (COS), and data recorded on all major illnesses since HCS, as well as current medications. Ordinal logistic regression analysed the association between early-life factors and the number of morbidities in these two surveys as well as medication count. Results: a total of 2299 participants had data in COS, 1131 (49%) were female, median age (interquartile range) at recruitment to HCS was 66 (64-68) years. Higher rates of childhood illnesses were significantly associated with future multi-morbidity (multivariate odds ratio (OR) (95% confidence interval (CI)) 1.15 (1.06, 1.25)) and higher medication counts at COS (multivariate OR (95%CI) 1.14 (1.06, 1.23)). Conclusions: children who experience more illnesses at a young age may be prone to develop multi-morbidity in later life.

Original publication




Journal article


Age ageing

Publication Date





474 - 478