Contribution of individual diseases to death in older adults with multiple diseases

Mary E. Tinetti, Gail J. McAvay, Terrence E. Murphy, Cary P. Gross, Haiqun Lin, Heather G. Allore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Objectives To determine empirically the diseases contributing most commonly and strongly to death in older adults, accounting for coexisting diseases. Design Longitudinal. Setting United States. Participants Twenty-two thousand eight hundred ninety Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey participants, a national representative sample of Medicare beneficiaries, enrolled during 2002 to 2006. Measurements Information on chronic and acute diseases was ascertained from Medicare claims data. Diseases contributing to death during follow-up were identified empirically using regression models for all diseases with a frequency of 1% or greater and hazard ratio for death of greater than 1. The additive contributions of these diseases, adjusting for coexisting diseases, were calculated using a longitudinal extension of average attributable fraction; 95% confidence intervals were estimated from bootstrapping. Results Fifteen diseases and acute events contributed significantly to death, together accounting for nearly 70% of death. Heart failure (20.0%), dementia (13.6%), chronic lower respiratory disease (12.4%), and pneumonia (5.3%) made the largest contributions to death. Cancer, including lung, colorectal, lymphoma, and head and neck, together contributed to 5.6% of death. Other diseases and events included acute kidney injury, stroke, septicemia, liver disease, myocardial infarction, and unintentional injuries. Conclusion The use of methods that focus on determining a single underlying cause may lead to underestimation of the extent of the contribution of some diseases such as dementia and respiratory disease to death in older adults and overestimation of the contribution of other diseases. Current conceptualization of a single underlying cause may not account adequately for the contribution to death of coexisting diseases that older adults experience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1448-1456
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


Dive into the research topics of 'Contribution of individual diseases to death in older adults with multiple diseases'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this