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What is morbidity?

Morbidity refers to having a specific condition, illness, or symptom of a disease. While it can refer to an acute condition, it is most often used to describe chronic diseases.

Some common morbidities include:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Anxiety
  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Infections (e.g., HIV, the flu)
  • Lung diseases (e.g., chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma)
  • Obesity
  • Stroke

Morbidity is often used to define the amount of disease within a population, and it is typically represented using incidence or prevalence.

Incidence refers to the number of new cases of a condition or illness diagnosed within a population over a specified time period. It may be expressed as a rate or proportion.

Prevalence is the proportion of a population that has an illness or condition (both new and existing cases) and is often expressed as a ratio or percentage.

Why is morbidity important in healthcare?

Morbidity is important in assessing a population’s health. Changes in morbidity can also indicate the progression of a given health event. Morbidity is also useful when gauging the effectiveness of an intervention, as it allows researchers to see what percentage of the population is still affected by the disease.

One word often used in relation to morbidity is comorbidity, or the occurrence of two or more diseases at the same time. In some cases, certain morbidities can increase the risk of developing comorbidities or severe versions of an illness. Additionally, understanding comorbidity is important to healthcare because it can affect the diagnosis, treatment, and outlook of a health condition.