Recent advances in medicine and health policy have led to an unprecedented increase in life expectancy. This longevity has also seen an increasing number of people, particularly older adults, suffering from two or more serious chronic diseases - a status known as multimorbidity.

While many demands are made of the sustainable health agenda, this burden of multimorbidity looms large. In the European Union alone, a paper from 2013 estimated that 50 million people are affected by co-existing diseases, and this figure is expected to rise over the next 20 years. Despite this, many questions around multimorbidity remain unanswered.

Other than age, little is known about the factors driving the trend towards more people living with multiple chronic conditions. Most health-related research is focused on the prevention and management of single medical conditions in isolation, which makes it difficult to develop the evidence-based strategies that patients and healthcare systems crucially need to understand the extent of this burden, and to most effectively treat disease clusters and interactions.

The urgent need for such research was underscored by the Academy of Medical Sciences’ 2018 policy report on multimorbidity, chaired by our Principal Director, Professor Stephen MacMahon.