University of Oulu

Drug use among the home-dwelling elderly : trends, polypharmacy, and sedation

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Author: Linjakumpu, Tarja1,2,3
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry
2Härkätie Health Center
3University of Turku, Institute of Clinical Medicine, General Practice
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.7 MB)
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Language: English
Published: 2003
Publish Date: 2003-10-03
Thesis type: Doctoral Dissertation
Defence Note: Academic Dissertation to be presented with the assent of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Oulu, for public discussion in the Väinö Pääkkönen Hall of the Department of Psychiatry, Peltolantie 5, on October 3rd, 2003, at 12 noon.
Reviewer: Docent Risto Huupponen
Professor Esa Leinonen


The elderly use drugs more commonly than younger persons. Many studies about drug use have concentrated on institutionalized elders. Knowledge of drug use by the oldest old, aged 85 years or over, is scant. Psychotropics are among the drugs most commonly used by the elderly. Psychotropics have many adverse effects, such as balance impairment, sedation, reduced cognition, depression, and extrapyramidal symptoms. We do not know the extent of sedative drug use, including psychotropics and drugs prescribed for somatic disorders that have sedative properties. Withdrawal of unnecessary drugs appears to be beneficial and to improve the functional capacities of the elderly.

The aim of this study was to describe the changes in prescription drug use, polypharmacy, and psychotropic use among home-dwelling elderly Finns in the 1990s by using two cross-sectional community surveys. The specific aim was to classify all drugs used in Finland into four groups based on their sedative properties.

Drug use, polypharmacy, and, to some extent, psychotropic use increased within a decade. The oldest old used prescription drugs most commonly. Polypharmacy was independently associated with higher age, and in 1998-99, with at least 3 chronic diseases, poor self-perceived health, and the use of home nursing services. Most psychotropic users were on regular medication. The use of hypnotics and antidepressants increased most. Persons with polypharmacy used significantly more commonly psychotropics compared to other people. Over 84-year-olds used psychotropics more commonly than younger persons.

Sedative use was common, as 40 % of drug users used them. Sedative use was significantly more common among persons with polypharmacy than others. According to logistic regression models, the use of many sedatives was independently associated with age 80 years or over, female gender, chronic morbidity, smoking, poor self-perceived health/life satisfaction, and the use of home nursing. Both polypharmacy and abundant sedative use were associated with impaired physical functional abilities.

Prescribers need to be aware of the increasing polypharmacy and abundant sedative use. Regular assessment of indications is needed to avoid overuse of drugs. Geriatric knowledge is needed to support health centers and specialized units in this demanding task.

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Series: Acta Universitatis Ouluensis. D, Medica
ISSN-E: 1796-2234
ISBN: 951-42-7102-5
ISBN Print: 951-42-7101-7
Issue: 744
Copyright information: © University of Oulu, 2003. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.