Antidepressants tripled the likelihood that a nursing home resident would fall and injure themselves, according to a study published Wednesday in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.
Our study also discovered that the risk of an injurious fall increased even more if the residents were also given hypnotic or sedative drugs as sleeping pills, Carolyn Shanty Sterke, lead author and geriatric researcher at Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
The research is important because many nursing home residents with dementia also have depression and are put on medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, drugs linked to increases in injuries.
Physicians should be cautious in prescribing SSRIs to older people with dementia, even at low doses, Sterke said.
The study surveyed 248 nursing home residents during a two-year period starting in 2006 and found the risk of falling was three fold greater in residents taking antidepressants.
Earlier in January, a separate study linked antidepressants to an increase in fetal hypertension that can stress a developing child and in some cases cause death.
In the nursing home study, the average age of participants was 82 years and that residents had used antidepressants 16 percent of their days spent there, mostly SSRIs.
During that time, 152 out of the 248 participants fell a total of 683 times. A third, 220 falls, resulted in injury and one resulted in the resident dying after the fall.