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Benzodiazepine use and physical disability in community-dwelling older adults.

  • Author(s): Gray, Shelly L;
  • LaCroix, Andrea Z;
  • Hanlon, Joseph T;
  • Penninx, Brenda WJH;
  • Blough, David K;
  • Leveille, Suzanne G;
  • Artz, Margaret B;
  • Guralnik, Jack M;
  • Buchner, Dave M
  • et al.

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To determine whether benzodiazepine use is associated with incident disability in mobility and activities of daily living (ADLs) in older individuals.


A prospective cohort study.


Four sites of the Established Populations for Epidemiologic Studies of the Elderly.


This study included 9,093 subjects (aged > or =65) who were not disabled in mobility or ADLs at baseline.


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.


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.


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.

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