Increased prescribing has little effect on depression levels in care homes

According to a study
by the Universities of Cambridge and East Anglia dating from 1991-2011,
antidepressant use in care homes has risen from 7.4 per cent to 29.2 per cent,
although the prevalence of depression in care homes remains unchanged at around
one in ten residents.

The findings have prompted lead study author Prof Antony Arthur, from
UEA’s School of Health Sciences, to call for healthcare professionals
to take a wider view of the management of depression. He said: “The
causes of depression in older people, the factors that perpetuate it,
and the best ways to manage it remain poorly understood and merit more

The findings are based on the Cognitive Function
and Ageing Studies, conducted at two time points – between 1991 and 1993, and
between 2008 and 2011.  Researchers interviewed more than 15,000 over 65s
in England and Wales to see whether the prevalence of depression and
antidepressant use are changing.

The study’s lead investigator Prof Carol Brayne,
director of the Cambridge Institute of Public Health, said: “This new work
reveals that depression has not shown the same reduction even in the presence
of dramatically increased prescribing, itself not without concern given
potential adverse effects we have also shown that are associated with

Key findings

  • The proportion of older people receiving
    anti-depressant medication more than doubled over two decades – from 4.2 per
    cent in the early nineties to 10.7 per cent 20 years later.
  • The estimated prevalence of
    depression among over 65s in the early 1990s was 7.9 per cent, compared to 6.8
    per cent 20 years later.
  • Depression and antidepressant use were
    more common in women than men at both time points.
  • Depression was associated with living
    in a more deprived area.
  • Across both time periods, most people
    with case-level depression were not on antidepressants, while most of those on
    antidepressants did not have depression.

Increased prescribing has little effect on depression levels in care homes

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