Aims of the study: The purpose of this study was to estimate the prevalence of psychotropic drug use in a cohort of elderly persons and to examine factors related to current and subsequent drug use.
Population: A representative cohort of non-institutionalized subjects aged 65 and over living in New Haven, Connecticut, was interviewed in 1982, and again in 1985 and 1988. Psychotropic drug use during the prior two weeks was assessed at each home interview.
Results: At the baseline interview in 1982, 12.3% of the subjects reported using psychotropic drugs, half of them (6.25%) benzodiazepines. In multivariate analyses, psychotropic drug use was significantly associated with female gender and white ethnicity but not with older age. Psychotropic drug use and depressive symptomatology were strongly correlated in both genders. However, less than 5% of the subjects reporting high depressive symptomatology were using antidepressants. Psychotropic drug use was also associated with sleep problems in men and medical conditions in women. Psychotropic drug consumption increased slightly to 15.1% in 1988. Continuous use (use reported in 1982, 1985 and 1988) was found in 4.5% of the sample; it was strongly related to both depressive symptomatology and sleep problems reported at baseline. New use, beginning either in 1985 or in 1988, was observed in 12.6% of the sample; it was related to female gender, older age, and, among baseline health variables, to depressive symptomatology.
Conclusions: Prevalence of psychotropic drug use in this cohort of elderly people was lower than in other studies conducted in the U.S. The reasons for this variation are discussed. Continuous use was not higher for benzodiazepines than for other psychotropic drugs.