Seniors on antidepressants, sleeping pills more prone to falls
Published Tuesday, November 24, 2009 2:39PM MST
Seniors who take medications like antidepressants and sleeping pills are at greater risk of falling, according to a new study. And researchers now say the findings suggest doctors need to take more precaution in prescribing such drugs for seniors.
After analyzing 22 international studies, researchers at the University of British Columbia found that seniors on sedating drugs such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, which is often used to treat schizophrenia and sedative-hypnotics were one-and-a -half times more likely to take a slip compared to those not consuming such drugs.
"These findings reinforce the need for judicious use of medications in elderly people at risk of falling," said principal author and UBC pharmacist and epidemiologist Dr. Carlo Marra. "Safer alternatives, such as counselling, shorter-term or less-sedating therapies, may be more appropriate for certain conditions."
Marra said one in three Canadians over 65 living in the community experiences a fall each year. And for those over 80, the number increases to 40 per cent.
Statistics have shown 90 per cent of all hip fractures are caused by falls. And one in five seniors living in the community who fracture a hip, will die.
The study looked at data from more than 79,000 participants. Overall, it found antidepressants had the strongest association with falls. The study's authors said that was possibly because older drugs in this class have significant sedative properties.
Marra also said researchers were surprised to find that some drugs that reduce blood pressure can also lead to falls.
Researchers also noted another surprising link between the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and a higher tendency for spills.
"We're not sure why we found that, but maybe that's a marker for things like osteoarthritis, where maybe somebody has knee pain or knee instability and perhaps that's leading to the fall rather than the drug," Marra said.
The doctor added that it's important to get the message out that there are medications that can influence the elderly to falling.
The study's co-author John Woolcott said there are some ways of fall-proofing a person's home, such as installing handrails, using proper lighting and removing small mats and rugs. Woolcott also suggested that seniors should try implementing an exercise program to improve strength, balance and flexibility.
With files from the Canadian Press