Initiation of benzodiazepines in the elderly after hospitalization

J Gen Intern Med. 2007 Jul;22(7):1024-9. doi: 10.1007/s11606-007-0194-4. Epub 2007 Apr 24.


Objective: To estimate the rate of new chronic benzodiazepine use after hospitalization in older adults not previously prescribed with benzodiazepines.

Design: Retrospective cohort study using linked, population-based administrative data.

Setting: Ontario, Canada between April 1, 1992 and March 31, 2005.

Participants: Community-dwelling seniors who had not been prescribed benzodiazepine drugs in the year before hospitalization were selected from all 1.4 million Ontario residents aged 66 years and older.

Main outcome measures: New chronic benzodiazepine users, defined as initiation of benzodiazepines within 7 days after hospital discharge and an additional claim within 8 days to 6 months. We used multivariate logistic regression to examine for the effect of hospitalization on the primary outcome after adjusting for confounders.

Results: There were 405,128 patient hospitalizations included in the cohort. Benzodiazepines were prescribed to 12,484 (3.1%) patients within 7 days of being discharged from hospital. A total of 6,136 (1.5%) patients were identified as new chronic benzodiazepine users. The rate of new chronic benzodiazepine users decreased over the study period from 1.8% in the first year to 1.2% in the final year (P < .001). Multivariate logistic regression found that women, patients admitted to the intensive care unit or nonsurgical wards, those with longer hospital stays, higher overall comorbidity, a prior diagnosis of alcoholism, and those prescribed more medications had significantly elevated adjusted odds ratios for new chronic benzodiazepine users. Older individuals had a lower risk for the primary outcome.

Conclusion: New benzodiazepine prescription after hospitalization occurs frequently in older adults and may result in chronic use. A systemic effort to address this risky practice should be considered.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Ambulatory Care
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Benzodiazepines / therapeutic use*
  • Canada
  • Cohort Studies
  • Comorbidity
  • Drug Prescriptions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Odds Ratio
  • Patient Discharge*
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Benzodiazepines