Physical morbidity in elderly psychiatric inpatients: prevalence and possible relations between the major mental disorders and physical illness

Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2000 Mar;15(3):248-53. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1099-1166(200003)15:3<248::aid-gps102>;2-l.


Background: This study examines the prevalence of physical morbidity in elderly psychiatric inpatients and the possible relationships between major psychiatric disorders (organic mental disorders, schizophrenic and mood disorders) and physical illnesses. The clinical implications of such relationships are discussed.

Method: Data were obtained from two old age psychiatry wards over a six month period. Seventy-nine subjects were studied and information was obtained from their medical files. Demographic characteristics, psychiatric diagnosis, number of physical illnesses and number of body systems affected were collected. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to compare the psychiatric groups on continuous outcome data and chi(2) test to compare psychiatric groups on categorical data.

Results: Seventy-five per cent of subjects had at least one physical illness. The number of medical illnesses was independent from the psychiatric disorder. Subjects with mood disorders, and especially depression, were more likely to suffer from hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular illnesses than subjects with schizophrenic or organic disorders. Subjects with organic disorders had the lowest prevalence of endocrine disease and diabetes.

Conclusions: It was concluded the link between mood disorders (depression), cardiovascular diseases and hypertension could be of a 'cause/effect' type or are the results of a survivor effect. The high prevalence of physical morbidity has implications for training and continuing professional development of those in Old Age Psychiatry Services. It should also be taken into consideration when the location of services is being decided.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Catchment Area, Health
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Morbidity
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology