To estimate the attributable costs of multimorbidity and assess whether the association between the level of multimorbidity and health system costs varies by socio-demographic factors in young (<65 years) and older (≥65 years) adults living in Ontario, Canada.
6 639 089 Ontarians who were diagnosed with at least one of 16 selected medical conditions on 1 April 2009.
From the perspective of the publicly funded healthcare system, total annual healthcare costs were derived from linked provincial health administrative databases using a person-level costing method. We used generalised linear models to examine the association between the level of multimorbidity and healthcare costs and the extent to which socio-demographic variables modified this association.
Attributable total costs of multimorbidity ranged from C$377 to C$2073 for young individuals and C$1026 to C$3831 for older adults. The association between the degree of multimorbidity and healthcare costs was significantly modified by age (p<0.001), sex (p<0.001) and neighbourhood income (p<0.001) in both age groups, and the positive association between healthcare costs and levels of multimorbidity was statistically stronger for older than younger adults. For individuals aged 65 years or younger, the increase in healthcare costs was more gradual in women than in their male counterparts, however, for those aged 65 years or older, the increase in healthcare costs was significantly greater among women than men. Lastly, we also observed that the positive association between the level of multimorbidity and healthcare costs was significantly greater at higher levels of marginalisation.
Socio-demographic factors are important effect modifiers of the relationship between multimorbidity and healthcare costs and should therefore be considered in any discussion of the implementation of healthcare policies and the organisation of healthcare services aimed at controlling healthcare costs associated with multimorbidity.