OBJECTIVE: To systematically review the studies of prevalence, patterns and consequences of multimorbidity reported from South Asia.
DESIGN: Systematic review.
SETTING: South Asia.
DATA SOURCES: Articles were retrieved from two electronic databases (PubMed and Embase) and from the relevant references lists. Methodical data extraction according to Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines was followed. English-language studies published between 2000 and March 2015 were included.
ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA: Studies addressing prevalence, consequences and patterns of multimorbidity in South Asia. Articles documenting presence of two or more chronic conditions were included in the review. The quality and risk of bias were assessed using STROBE criteria.
DATA SELECTION: Two reviewers independently assessed studies for eligibility, extracted data and assessed study quality. Due to heterogeneity in methodologies among reported studies, only narrative synthesis of the results was carried out.
RESULTS: Of 11 132, 61 abstracts were selected and 13 were included for final data synthesis. The number of health conditions analysed per study varied from 7 to 22, with prevalence of multimorbidity from 4.5% to 83%. The leading chronic conditions were hypertension, arthritis, diabetes, cardiac problems and skin diseases. The most frequently reported outcomes were increased healthcare utilisation, lowered physical functioning and quality of life, and psychological distress.
CONCLUSIONS: Our study, a comprehensive mapping of multimorbidity research in South Asia, reveals the insufficient volume of work carried out in this domain. The published studies are inadequate to provide an indication of the magnitude of multimorbidity in these countries. Research into clinical and epidemiological aspects of multimorbidity is warranted to build up scientific evidence in this geographic region. The wide heterogeneity observed in the present review calls for greater methodological rigour while conducting these epidemiological studies.
TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: CRD42013005456.