The findings of new research suggest that the elderly may face an increased risk of suffering a hip fracture if they are prescribed antidepressants, likely due to an increased risk of falling that may be caused by the medications.
In a study published this month in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, researchers from the University of Eastern Finland report that all types of antidepressants increased the risk of falls and fractures among older individuals living in a community dwelling, regardless of whether they have Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers conducted a retrospective cohort study that involved 50,491 patients with Alzheimer’s disease who had a mean age of 80. They compared those with 100,982 patients without Alzheimer’s disease, looking at rates of falls and fracture rates and whether they were using mood altering drugs.
According to the findings, patients who had Alzheimer’s disease and who also took antidepressants faced a 60% increased risk of hip fracture, and those without Alzheimer’s disease actually faced an even higher increased risk, close to triple.
“The risk was most prominent in the beginning of use and was elevated even up to 4 years,” the researchers noted. “The risk was increased with all of the most frequently used antidepressants.”
The findings are similar to those of a number of studies in recent years, which raised concerns about the use of antidepressants in nursing homes and among elderly individuals.
In 2012, a study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology found that giving individuals with dementia antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) tripled their risk of suffering a nursing home fall.
Another study, published in 2011 in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, found that nursing home residents were nearly five times as likely to fall within two days of being put on a non-SSRI antidepressant when compared to those not given the drugs.
Many nursing home residents with dementia genuinely suffer from depression, and health experts say that the use of antidepressants can help. However, experts have warned that nursing homes giving antidepressants to patients need to develop plans that take into account the increased risk of those patients suffering a potentially injurious or even fatal fall.