Sedative, hypnotic, and antianxiety medication use in an aging cohort over ten years: a racial comparison

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2000 Sep;48(9):1073-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2000.tb04782.x.


Objectives: Prescriptions of sedatives, hypnotics, and antianxiety medications have decreased over the past 15 years. However, racial differences have not been well investigated in controlled analyses.

Design: A prospective cohort study.

Settings and participants: The authors analyzed data from a community-based, biracial cohort of older adults (n = 4,000 at baseline) followed for 10 years to determine sociodemographic and health characteristics associated with the use of these medications between 1986 and 1996.

Main outcome measures: Information about sedative, hypnotic, and antianxiety medication use and demographic and health characteristics was obtained from a race-stratified, probability-based sample of black and white community-dwelling older adults in the Piedmont region of North Carolina during four in-person interviews spanning 10 years. Descriptive statistics were calculated. Logistic regression was used for the final models.

Results: A total of 13.3% of the subjects were taking these medications in 1986, with the frequency of use declining only to 11.8% in 1996 despite the cohort aging 10 years. Correlates of use at baseline were female gender, white race, depressive symptoms, poor self-rated health, impaired physical function, and health services use. These correlates persisted for each of the three follow-up waves of the survey. In 1996, the odds for being white and using these medications was 4.70 in controlled analyses.

Conclusions: Despite the overall decline in the use of sedative, hypnotics, and antianxiety agents in the general population in recent years, over the 10 years of this survey, an aging cohort continued to use these medications at a frequency greater than the general population and did not demonstrate a significant decline in use. Factors unrelated to health status, specifically being white, were among the strongest correlates of use throughout the years of follow-up.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data*
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / therapeutic use*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • North Carolina
  • Prospective Studies
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • White People / statistics & numerical data*


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives