, Volume 22, Issue 9, pp 793-800
Date: 11 Sep 2012

Use of Psychotropic Drugs in Elderly Nursing Home Residents with and without Dementia in Helsinki, Finland

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Use of psychotropic medication is very common in nursing home residents. Our objective was to describe the use of psychotropic drugs in all long-term nursing home residents ≥65 years of age with and without dementia in Helsinki, Finland.


The study was a cross-sectional assessment of the nursing home population. The residents’ health status was assessed and data on their demographic factors, health and medication use were collected from medical charts in February 2003.


Of all nursing home residents in Helsinki, 82% (n = 1987) participated in the study. The nursing home residents’ mean age was 83.7 (SD 7.7) years, 80.7% were female, and 69.5% were diagnosed with dementia. The mean number of psychotropic drugs given regularly was 7.9 (SD 3.6) per resident. Of the participants, 79.7% were regularly taking psychotropic medication. Conventional antipsychotics were administered to 18.9% of residents and atypical antipsychotics to 27.0%. Of the residents, 26.7% were on selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), 3.1% on tricyclic antidepressants and 17.6% on other antidepressants. Altogether, 44.6% of residents were taking one or more antidepressant. More than a quarter (26.3%) were taking at least one anxiolytic drug. Hypnotics were used by 27.5%. However, only moderate dosages of psychotropic drugs were being taken. Only 10.4% of individuals with dementia were regularly taking cholinesterase inhibitors and four residents were taking memantine.


Use of psychotropic drugs is very common in nursing homes in Helsinki, Finland, with four of five nursing home residents regularly receiving psychotropic drugs. Only one in ten residents were receiving cholinesterase inhibitors. Physicians caring for nursing home residents require further education on the benefits and adverse effects of psychotropic drugs in frail elderly people.