Seniors Get Psychiatric Meds At Twice the Rate of Younger Adults

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Seniors receive psychiatric medications at twice the rate that younger adults do, yet they are far less likely to see a psychiatrist for their mental health care, a recent study suggests.

Donovan Maust, MD, a geriatric psychiatrist with the University of Michigan Health System, and colleagues examined data from 100,000 outpatient visits with physicians between 2007 and 2010 that was collected as part of the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey. The study is considered to be the first to compare mental health treatment of those 65 and over with those below 65.

They looked at four types of visits: Ones where patients received a mental health diagnosis; saw a psychiatrist; received psychotherapy; and/or received a prescription or renewal of a psychotropic medication (including antidepressants, anxiolytics, mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, or stimulants).

Visits related to antidepressant and anti-anxiety drug use among older adults (63 and 62 visits per 100 people per year, respectively) occurred at nearly double the rates of such visits by younger adults (36 and 29 visits per year per 100 people, respectively), the researchers reported in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

In contrast, older adults see psychiatrists at about half the rate of younger adults (6.3 vs.12 visits per year per 100 people).

“Our findings suggest that psychotropic medication use is widespread among older adults in outpatient care, at a far higher rate than among younger patients,” Maust said in a statement. “In many cases, especially for milder depression and anxiety, the safer treatment for older adults who are already taking multiple medications for other conditions might be more therapy-oriented, but very few older adults receive this sort of care.”

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Seniors also see psychiatrists at about half the rate of younger adults.

Older Americans receive prescriptions for mental health medications at more than twice the rate that younger adults do, a new study finds.

But they're much less likely to be getting their mental health care from a psychiatrist, the results also show.

That raises questions about whether they could be at risk of problems caused by a collision of multiple medications — and about whether primary care doctors may need more support to care for older people with depression, anxiety and other conditions.

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