Study: Fifth of over 55s have mental disorder

A new study looking at tens of thousands of GP patient records has found almost one in five people over the age of 55 had a mental disorder.

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The study, ‘Identified mental disorders in older adults in primary care: A cross-sectional database study’, was published in the European Journal of General Practice and involved researchers from University College Dublin, the University of Limerick, and King’s College London.

They collected anonymised data from 35 GP practices nationally between June 2014 and March 2015, and then analysed it for the prevalence of mental disorders in adults aged over 55 years.

It meant 74,261 patients aged over 55 years were identified in the study, of whom 14,143 had a mental health disorder — a prevalence rate of 19.1%.

The study outlined how there was “considerable variation between practices”, with some having 3.7% of patients over 55 with a mental disorder and others having a percentage as high as almost 39%.

It also found that prevalence increased with age, from 14.8% at 55-59 years to 28.9% at 80-84 years.

The most common disorders were depression (17.1%), panic/anxiety (11.3%), cognitive (5.6%), alcohol-related (3.8%), and disorders relating to substance use (3.8%).

The most commonly prescribed drugs were antidepressants (45.6%), followed by hypnotics/sedatives (38.4%).

The study said that examining mental disorders among older adults using data derived from electronic medical records (EMRs) was “feasible”, although it said that “further study is needed to better understand the causes of variable practice-level diagnosis and prescribing, and the implication for health outcomes in older adults”.


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