Friday, June 20, 2008

Falls, depression and antidepressants in later life

Older people are at high risk for falls and subsequent injuries. Those who have depression have an increased risk of falls and the medications they take for depression increase their risk even more, New Zealand and Australian researchers reported in the open-access journal PLoS ONE.

"People with depression and those taking antidepressants, especially SSRIs, are 50% more likely to fall than other older people," said Ngaire Kerse, lead author of the study and associate professor in the Department of General Practice and Primary Healthcare at the School of Population Health in the University of Auckland, New Zealand. "Falls are very common and risk factors for falls are easy to identify. We need to emphasise fall prevention during treatment of depression in older people."

In a study of 21,900 older Australians, over age 60, who responded to a survey sent out by their GP, 24 percent reported at least one fall during the last 12 months, 11% had injured themselves with falling and 8% had needed to see a doctor because of a fall.

About one quarter of the group reported symptoms of depression and 12% were taking some form of antidepressant. While using antidepressants was a significant risk for falls, the highest risk (66% increase in falls) was seen when older people used SSRIs, the most frequently prescribed antidepressant (6% of people took this medication).

"This risk associated with SSRIs has been reported before but not in such a large group of older people living in the community," Kerse said. "More than 60% of women aged over 80 with depression and taking an SSRI fell in the last year. This means that falls prevention strategies must really be thought of when prescribing antidepressants for older people."


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