At-fault motor vehicle crash risk in elderly patients treated with antidepressants

Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2011 Dec;19(12):998-1006. doi: 10.1097/JGP.0b013e31820d93f9.


Objective: To assess whether antidepressant treatment is associated with a temporary increase in the risk of a motor vehicle crash among older adults.

Design: Population-based case-only time-to-event analysis.

Setting and subjects: Data from transportation and healthcare databases for adults age 65 and older in Ontario, Canada, between January 1, 2000, and October 31, 2007. Consecutive adults who had a motor vehicle crash anytime following their 66th birthday.

Measurements: The primary exposure variable was treatment with antidepressant medication, and the primary outcome measure was a motor vehicle crash.

Results: A total of 159,678 individuals had a crash during the study, of whom 7,393 (5%) received an antidepressant in the month prior to the crash. The hazard ratio (HR) of crash associated with second-generation antidepressants was 1.10 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.07-1.13, χ² = 41.77, df = 1, p <0.0001), adjusted for gender, license suspensions, and other medications, but the risk for first-generation antidepressants was not significant. The increased risk was restricted to those who were also concurrently prescribed a benzodiazepine (adjusted HR: 1.23, 95% CI: 1.17-1.28, χ² = 85.28, df = 1, p <0.0001) or a strong anticholinergic medication (adjusted HR: 1.63, 95% CI: 1.57-1.69, χ² = 627.31, df = 1, p <0.0001), and was confined to crashes where the patient was at fault. The increased risk was apparent for the first 3-4 months following initiation of an antidepressant and returned to baseline thereafter.

Conclusions: Prescriptions for second-generation antidepressants in older adults are associated with a modest increased risk of motor vehicle crashes, when combined with other medications that can impair cognition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Aged*
  • Aged, 80 and over*
  • Antidepressive Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antidepressive Agents / adverse effects*
  • Automobile Driving / statistics & numerical data*
  • Benzodiazepines / administration & dosage
  • Benzodiazepines / adverse effects
  • Cholinergic Antagonists / administration & dosage
  • Cholinergic Antagonists / adverse effects*
  • Drug Therapy, Combination / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Ontario
  • Risk Assessment / methods
  • Risk Assessment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Time Factors


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Cholinergic Antagonists
  • Benzodiazepines