Comorbidity among older American Indians: the native elder care study

Goins RT, Pilkerton CS.  Department of Community Medicine, Center on Aging, Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center, West Virginia University, P.O. Box 9127, Morgantown, WV 26506, USA.  J Cross Cult Gerontol. 2010 Dec;25(4):343-54. doi: 10.1007/s10823-010-9119-5.

Comorbidity is a growing challenge and the older adult population is most at risk of developing comorbid conditions. Comorbidity is associated with increased risk of mortality, increased hospitalizations, increased doctor visits, increased prescription medications, nursing home placement, poorer mental health, and physical disability. American Indians experience some of the highest rates of chronic conditions, but to date there have been only two published studies on the subject of comorbidity in this population. With a community-based sample of 505 American Indians aged 55 years or older, this study identified the most prevalent chronic conditions, described comorbidity, and identified socio-demographic, functional limitations, and psychosocial correlates of comorbidity. Results indicated that older American Indians experience higher rates of hypertension, diabetes, back pain, and vision loss compared to national statistics of older adults. Two-thirds of the sample experienced some degree of comorbidity according to the scale used. Older age, poorer physical functioning, more depressive symptomatology, and lower personal mastery were all correlates of higher comorbidity scores. Despite medical advances increasing life expectancy, morbidity and mortality statistics suggest that the health of older American Indians lags behind the majority population. These findings highlight the importance of supporting chronic care and management services for the older American Indian population.