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Loneliness Linked to Use of High-Risk Meds in Seniors

Loneliness associated with use of NSAIDs, pain medicine, sedatives, anti-anxiety meds, and antidepressants

depressed woman

FRIDAY, Aug. 6, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Loneliness is a powerful predictor of use of medications used to treat physical and psychological symptoms among older, community-dwelling adults, according to a research letter published online July 26 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Ashwin A. Kotwal, M.D., from University of California in San Francisco, and colleagues used data from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (waves 1 through 3: 2005, 2010, 2015) to investigate the relationship between loneliness and high-risk medication use among 6,017 community-dwelling older adults (>65 years).

The researchers found that 40 percent of participants were classified as low/moderately lonely, while 7 percent were classified as highly lonely. Self-reported pain, insomnia, depression, anxiety, multimorbidity, and medications of interest were all significantly associated with loneliness in unadjusted analyses. There were significant associations observed in adjusted analyses between loneliness and use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (no loneliness, 14 percent; low/moderate, 17 percent; high, 22 percent), benzodiazepines (no loneliness, 5 percent; low/moderate, 7 percent; high, 11 percent), anxiolytics/sedatives (no loneliness, 9 percent; low/moderate, 12 percent; high, 20 percent), antidepressants (no loneliness, 14 percent; low/moderate, 19 percent; high, 27 percent), and polypharmacy (no loneliness, 41 percent; low/moderate, 44 percent; high, 50 percent). The association with opioids was nonsignificant.

"Identifying and addressing loneliness may have the added benefit of allowing clinicians to reduce or avoid prescription of high-risk medications," the authors write.

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