Alert
Close

Think you know AARP? What you don't know about us may surprise you. Discover all the 'Real Possibilities'

HIGHLIGHTS

Open

REAL POSSIBILITIES

AARP Real Possibilities

DRIVER SAFETY

Piggy bank on the road - AARP Driver Safety

Take the new AARP Smart Driver Course!

Contests and
Sweeps

Dream Vacation Sweepstakes

10 weeks. 10 amazing trips. Seize your chance to win!
See official rules. 

CHECK OUT OUR
NEW IPAD APP!

ATM Mobile App for iPhone and Ipad

Enjoy the best of AARP’s award-winning publications

on the go with the new

AARP ePubs iPad App

KEEP BRAIN ACTIVE!

AARP Games - Play Now!

Learning Centers

Get smart strategies for managing health conditions.


Arthritis

Heart Disease

Diabetes

Most Popular

Viewed

Commented

Health Discovery

Some Antidepressants Dramatically Increase Risk of Falls in Older People

Patients on these meds need careful monitoring

En español | Nursing home residents are most likely to fall within a few days of starting — or getting a larger dose of — a certain type of antidepressant, according to a new study recently published online in the Journals of Gerontology.

Sign up for AARP's Health Newsletter.

Anti-depressants are linked to nursing home falls - woman on stairs

Older people are at high risk of falling after starting certain antidepressants. — Photo by Getty Images

"We identified a small window of time when nursing home residents are at high risk of falls," says Sarah D. Berry, M.D., a coauthor of the study and an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School. The increased risk of falls comes within the first four days of a prescription change in a type of antidepressant known as non-SSRI, or non-selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. These include Effexor, Trazodone, Wellbutrin and Remeron.

The risk peaked within two days after a new prescription began or a current one was increased. In that time the risk of a fall, which can be debilitating and even deadly for older people, was five times higher than it was before the change. By the fifth day the risk drops off, Berry says. During that very specific four-day time frame, she says, the nursing staff should be extra vigilant and work to prevent falls.

That time frame is important, agrees James P. Zacny, professor in the Department of Anesthesia and Critical Care at the University of Chicago, who was not connected to the study. But he says demanding extra care even for a few days might be unrealistic given the chronic staffing shortages at most nursing homes. "In an ideal world, caregivers should look out for these folks and monitor them more closely [after a prescription change]," he says. Still, Zacny adds, the study's suggestion that prescription changes be avoided on weekends — when staffing is even more limited and the nurses are less familiar to the residents — might be helpful.

The study analyzed the records of 1,181 older residents — mostly women — in two long-term care facilities who had experienced falls. Researchers looked specifically at falls recorded up to seven days after a medication change.

Berry says it is not clear why the patient's risk of falling might increase with a change in the non-SSRI drugs, but it could have to do with the medication's effect on blood pressure or motor skills. By day five, she says, it's possible the body has adjusted to the changes.

While previous studies have linked another type of antidepressant — SSRI drugs like Prozac — with falls, Berry says her study looked at only a small time frame, and it could be that it takes weeks or months before these other antidepressants trigger a change that increases the risk of falls.

You may also like: Strategies for preventing falls. >>

Jennifer Anderson is a freelance health and science writer.

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts

Processing

Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Health blog

Discounts & Benefits

bring health To Life-Visual MD

AARP Bookstore

AARP Bookstore - woman reaches for book on bookshelf

VISIT THE HEALTH SECTION

Find titles on brain health, drug alternatives and losing weight. Do