Background. To effectively meet the health care needs of multimorbid patients, the most important psychosocial factors associated with multimorbidity must be discerned. Our aim was to examine the association between self-reported adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and multimorbidity and the contribution of other social, behavioural and psychological factors to this relationship.
Methods. We analysed cross-sectional data from the Mitchelstown study, a population-based cohort recruited from a large primary care centre. ACE was measured by self-report using the Centre for Disease Control ACE questionnaire. Multimorbidity status was categorized as 0, 1 or >= 2 chronic diseases, which were ascertained by self-report of doctor diagnosis. Ordinal logistic regression was used to calculate odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs) for multimorbidity, using ACE as the independent variable with adjustment for social (education, public health cover), behavioural (smoking, exercise, diet, body mass index) and psychological factors (anxiety/depression scores).
Results. Of 2047 participants, 45.3% (n = 927, 95% CI: 43.1-47.4) reported multimorbidity. ACE was reported by 28.4% (n = 248, 95% CI: 25.3-31.3%) of multimorbid participants, 21% (n = 113, 95% CI: 18.0-25.1%) of single chronic disease participants and 16% (n = 83, 95% CI: 13.2-19.7%) of those without chronic disease. The OR for multimorbidity with any history of ACE was 1.6 (95% CI: 1.4-2.0, P < 0.001). Adjusting for social, behavioural and psychological factors only marginally ameliorated this association, OR 1.4 (95% CI: 1.1-1.7, P = 0.002).
Conclusions. Multimorbidity is independently associated with a history of ACEs. These findings demonstrate the psychosocial complexity associated with multimorbidity and should be used to inform health care provision in this patient cohort.