Insomnia in the elderly: its prevalence and correlates in the general population

Med J Aust. 1995 Jan 2;162(1):22-4. doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.1995.tb138406.x.


Objective: To estimate the prevalence of persistent insomnia and its correlates in samples of people living in the community and in institutional settings.

Methods: Respondents were interviewed in their place of residence by trained interviewers using the Canberra Interview for the Elderly, a structured psychiatric examination.

Results: Information about sleeping habits was obtained from 874 community and 59 institutional residents. Insomnia was persistent in 16% of the community-dwelling population and 12% of the institutional residents, with 15% and 40%, respectively, regularly taking a hypnotic. Of those without insomnia, 10% in the community but over a third in institutions were using a hypnotic. Insomnia was associated with depression, pain and poor physical health.

Conclusions: Persistent insomnia in the elderly, as in other age groups, is strongly associated with depressed mood, as well as with physical disease. Because of this, insomnia should not be dismissed as a normal part of ageing, and therefore ignored as a significant symptom. Continued surveillance is needed in general practice, geriatric services and nursing homes of the routine use of hypnotics by the elderly.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Homes for the Aged
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Male
  • Nursing Homes
  • Pain / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / epidemiology*