Benzodiazepine use and physical disability in community-dwelling older adults

Shelly L. Gray*, Andrea Z. LaCroix, Joseph T. Hanlon, Brenda Wjh Penninx, David K. Blough, Suzanne G. Leveille, Margaret B. Artz, Jack M. Guralnik, Dave M. Buchner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


OBJECTIVES: To determine whether benzodiazepine use is associated with incident disability in mobility and activities of daily living (ADLs) in older individuals. DESIGN: A prospective cohort study. SETTING: Four sites of the Established Populations for Epidemiologic Studies of the Elderly. PARTICIPANTS: This study included 9,093 subjects (aged ≥65) who were not disabled in mobility or ADLs at baseline. MEASUREMENTS: Mobility disability was defined as inability to walk half a mile or climb one flight of stairs. ADL disability was defined as inability to perform one or more basic ADLs (bathing, eating, dressing, transferring from a bed to a chair, using the toilet, or walking across a small room). Trained interviewers assessed outcomes annually. RESULTS: At baseline, 5.5% of subjects reported benzodiazepine use. In multivariable models, benzodiazepine users were 1.23 times as likely as nonusers (95% confidence interval (CI)=1.09-1.39) to develop mobility disability and 1.28 times as likely (95% CI=1.09-1.52) to develop ADL disability. Risk for incident mobility was increased with short- (hazard ratio (HR)=1.27, 95% CI=1.08-1.50) and long-acting benzodiazepines (HR=1.20, 95% CI=1.03-1.39) and no use. Risk for ADL disability was greater with short- (HR=1.58, 95% CI=1.25-2.01) but not long-acting (HR=1.11, 95% CI=0.89-1.39) agents than for no use. CONCLUSION: Older adults taking benzodiazepines have a greater risk for incident mobility and ADL disability. Use of short-acting agents does not appear to confer any safety benefits over long-acting agents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)224-230
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2006

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