Seniors Receive Less Consults But More Medication for Mental Health Disorders

The study found that the geriatric population in the United States receives prescriptions for mental health drugs at more than twice the rate that younger adults do, but they present a lower rate of seeking psychiatric care.

A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society analyzed data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, on visits to office-based physicians in the United States. Participants in the study were individuals who were diagnosed or treated for mental health issues following an outpatient visit.

The study compared mental health diagnosis and treatment between younger and older adults and found that older adults have a far higher rate of psychotropic use than younger adults on a per-population basis, but far fewer of them receive care from psychiatrists or incorporate psychotherapy.

"Our findings suggest that psychotropic medication use is widespread among older adults in outpatient care, at a far higher rate than among younger patients," said Donovan Maust, MD, MS, the lead study author. "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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