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Prevalence of mental disorders in non-demented elderly people in primary care

  • Luisa Baladón (a1), Ana Fernández (a2), Maria Rubio-Valera (a3), Jorge Cuevas-Esteban (a4), Diego J. Palao (a5), Juan A. Bellon (a6) and Antoni Serrano-Blanco (a7)...



Mental disorders in the elderly are common, with a 12-month prevalence in the community ranging from 8.54% to 26.4%. Unfortunately, many mental disorders are unrecognized, untreated, and associated with poor health outcomes. The aim of this paper is to describe the prevalence of mental disorders in the elderly primary care (PC) population and its associated factors by age groups.


Cross-sectional survey, conducted in 77 PC centers in Catalonia (Spain), 1,192 patients over 65 years old. The prevalence of mental disorders was assessed through face-to-face evaluations using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Axis I Disorders, Research Version (SCID-I-RV) and the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview (MINI); chronic physical conditions were noted using a checklist; and disability through the Sheehan Disability Scales (SDS).


Nearly 20% of participants had a mental disorder in the previous 12 months. Anxiety disorders were the most frequent, (10.9%) (95% CI = 8.2–14.4), followed by mood disorders (7.4%) (95% CI = 5.7–9.5). Being female, greater perceived stress and having mental health/emotional problems as the main reason for consultation were associated with the presence of any mental disorder. There were no differences in prevalence across age groups. Somatic comorbidity was not associated with the presence of mental disorders.


Mental disorders are highly prevalent among the elderly in PC in Spain. Efforts are needed to develop strategies to reduce this prevalence and improve the well-being of the elderly. Based on our results, we thought it might be useful to assess perceived stress regularly in PC, focusing on people who consult for emotional distress, or that have greater perceived stress.


Corresponding author

Correspondence should be addressed to: Luisa Baladón, Pablo Picasso 12. Sant Boi de Llobregat 08830, Barcelona, Spain. Phone: 0034936406350 ext:12211; Fax: 0034936542136. Email:


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