1. tbl. 107. árg. 2021

The prevalence of psychiatric diagnoses and psychotropic medication in icelandic nursing homes from 2003 to 2018

Algengi og þróun geðraskana og geðlyfjanotkunar meðal íbúa íslenskra hjúkrunarheimila frá 2003 til 2018

Páll Biering1 Ingibjörg Hjaltadóttir1,2


1Faculty of Nursing, University of Iceland, 2Division of Clinical Services Landspítali, National University Hospital.



INTRODUCTION: Research shows a high prevalence of mental disorders and psychotropic medication among older people, especially in nursing homes. Knowledge of this concerning issue among Icelandic nursing homes residents is limited, despite its importance for mental health policymaking. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate the prevalence of psychiatric diagnoses and psychotropic medication in Icelandic nursing homes, the relationship between these factors and how they have evolved from 2003 to 2018.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: The research data comes from interRAI MDS 2.0 assessments for nursing home residents in Iceland, for the period 2003-2018. The study uses the last assessment of each year (N=47,526).

RESULTS: Approximately half of the residents were diagnosed with anxiety and/or depression; 49.4% in 2003 and 54.5% in 2018. The use of psychotropic drugs increased from 66.3% to 72.5%. Antidepressants were most commonly utilized, with an increase from 47.5% to 56.2%. The use of antipsychotics drugs has remained nearly unchanged, at around 26%. Inconsistency was found between psychotropic medication and psychiatric diagnoses; on average, 18.2% of the residents took psychotropic drugs without being diagnosed and 22.3% took antipsychotics in other cases than recommended.

CONCLUSION: Age related changes influence the effect of psychotropic drugs and studies have not supported their positive long-term effects for older people who are also sensitive to associated adverse effects, especially in cases of polypharmacy. Therefore, it is important that psychotropic drugs use is based on accurate mental health assessment. To reduce psychotropic medication, other mental health interventions need to be developed.

Correspondence: Páll Biering, pb@hi.is

Key words: older people, mental health care, psychiatric diagnoses, psychotropic medication.


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