Prevalence, presentation and prognosis of delirium in older people in the population, at home and in long term care: a review

Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2013 Feb;28(2):127-34. doi: 10.1002/gps.3814. Epub 2012 Apr 18.


Objective: The aim of this study is to provide an overview of prevalence, symptoms, risk factors and prognosis of delirium in primary care and institutionalized long-term care.

Design: The method used in this study is a systematic PubMed search and literature review.

Results: The prevalence of delirium in the population among the elderly aged 65+ years is 1-2%. Prevalence rises with age: 10% among a "general" population aged 85+ years. Prevalence rises up to 22% in populations with higher percentages of demented elder. In long-term care, prevalence ranges between 1.4% and 70%, depending on diagnostic criteria and on the prevalence of dementia. There is a significant increase of the risk of delirium with age and cognitive decline in all groups. Concerning prognosis, most studies agree that older people who previously experienced delirium have a higher risk of dementia and a higher mortality rate. Population and long-term care studies show the same tendency.

Conclusions: Delirium in a non-selected population aged 65+ years is uncommon. However, prevalence rises very quickly in selected older groups. Primary care doctors should be aware of a relatively high risk of delirium among the elderly in long-term care, those older than 85 years and those with dementia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Delirium / epidemiology*
  • Delirium / psychology
  • Home Care Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Long-Term Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prevalence
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors