Mapping of global scientific research in comorbidity and multimorbidity: A cross-sectional analysis

Ferrán Catalá-López, Adolfo Alonso-Arroyo, Matthew J. Page, Brian Hutton, Rafael Tabarés-Seisdedos, Rafael Aleixandre-Benavent
Plos One


The management of comorbidity and multimorbidity poses major challenges to health services around the world. Analysis of scientific research in comorbidity and multimorbidity is limited in the biomedical literature. This study aimed to map global scientific research in comorbidity and multimorbidity to understand the maturity and growth of the area during the past decades.

Methods and findings

This was a cross-sectional analysis of the Web of Science. Searches were run from inception until November 8, 2016. We included research articles or reviews with no restrictions by language or publication date. Data abstraction was done by one researcher. A process of standardization was conducted by two researchers to unify different terms and grammatical variants and to remove typographical, transcription, and/or indexing errors. All potential discrepancies were resolved via discussion. Descriptive analyses were conducted (including the number of papers, citations, signatures, most prolific authors, countries, journals and keywords). Network analyses of collaborations between countries and co-words were presented. During the period 1970–2016, 85994 papers (64.0% in 2010–2016) were published in 3500 journals. There was wide diversity in the specialty of the journals, with psychiatry (16558 papers; 19.3%), surgery (9570 papers; 11.1%), clinical neurology (9275 papers; 10.8%), and general and internal medicine (7622 papers; 8.9%) the most common. PLOS One (1223 papers; 1.4%), the Journal of Affective Disorders (1154 papers; 1.3%), the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry (727 papers; 0.8%), the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (634 papers; 0.7%) and Obesity Surgery (588 papers; 0.7%) published the largest number of papers. 168 countries were involved in the production of papers. The global productivity ranking was headed by the United States (37624 papers), followed by the United Kingdom (7355 papers), Germany (6899 papers) and Canada (5706 papers). Twenty authors who published 100 or more papers were identified; the most prolific authors were affiliated with Harvard Medical School, State University of New York Upstate Medical University, National Taiwan Normal University and China Medical University. The 50 most cited papers (“citation classics” with at least 1000 citations) were published in 20 journals, led by JAMA Psychiatry (11 papers) and JAMA (10 papers). The most cited papers provided contributions focusing on methodological aspects (e.g. Charlson Comorbidity Index, Elixhauser Comorbidity Index, APACHE prognostic system), but also important studies on chronic diseases (e.g. epidemiology of mental disorders and its correlates by the U.S. National Comorbidity Survey, Fried’s frailty phenotype or the management of obesity).


Ours is the first analysis of global scientific research in comorbidity and multimorbidity. Scientific production in the field is increasing worldwide with research leadership of Western countries, most notably, the United States