Benzodiazepine use and physical disability in community-dwelling older adults

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2006 Feb;54(2):224-30. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2005.00571.x.


Objectives: To determine whether benzodiazepine use is associated with incident disability in mobility and activities of daily living (ADLs) in older individuals.

Design: A prospective cohort study.

Setting: Four sites of the Established Populations for Epidemiologic Studies of the Elderly.

Participants: This study included 9,093 subjects (aged > or =65) who were not disabled in mobility or ADLs at baseline.

Measurements: Mobility disability was defined as inability to walk half a mile or climb one flight of stairs. ADL disability was defined as inability to perform one or more basic ADLs (bathing, eating, dressing, transferring from a bed to a chair, using the toilet, or walking across a small room). Trained interviewers assessed outcomes annually.

Results: At baseline, 5.5% of subjects reported benzodiazepine use. In multivariable models, benzodiazepine users were 1.23 times as likely as nonusers (95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.09-1.39) to develop mobility disability and 1.28 times as likely (95% CI = 1.09-1.52) to develop ADL disability. Risk for incident mobility was increased with short- (hazard ratio (HR) = 1.27, 95% CI = 1.08-1.50) and long-acting benzodiazepines (HR = 1.20, 95% CI = 1.03-1.39) and no use. Risk for ADL disability was greater with short- (HR = 1.58, 95% CI = 1.25-2.01) but not long-acting (HR = 1.11, 95% CI = 0.89-1.39) agents than for no use.

Conclusion: Older adults taking benzodiazepines have a greater risk for incident mobility and ADL disability. Use of short-acting agents does not appear to confer any safety benefits over long-acting agents.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged
  • Anxiety / drug therapy*
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Benzodiazepines / therapeutic use*
  • Disabled Persons* / rehabilitation
  • Disabled Persons* / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Population Surveillance*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States


  • Benzodiazepines