Is it Appropriate to Use “Comorbid” When Discussing Disability?

Feb 20, 2020

Anonymous asks, quote:

I got asked today why we use “multiple disabilities” in our documentation instead of “comorbid disabilities” when describing disability interactions. I answered that comorbid seemed like it was referring to a disability like a disease and not every disabled person sees it that way, but now I’m doubting myself. Was that the right call? And what kind of language do you use when you talk about that kind of thing?

end quote.

Before I dig into this, I do want to preface it with the fact that I am not a medical professional. However, I have contacts that are medical professionals and I ran all of this by them before posting.

Comorbidity is used to describe two or more medical conditions that interact with one another. That’s it.

For example, obesity and hypertension: these two conditions interact with one another and can exist simultaneously in a single patient.

In your case, I think comorbid is an appropriate term (albeit a bit technical) because you are talking about how two or more medical conditions interact with one another. It has nothing to do with whether or not the conditions being described have been classified as a disease (or any other type of condition). If you were simply talking about having multiple, non‐interacting medical conditions, you would use the term “co‐occurring”.