Background: Acute exposure to sedative drugs may induce memory impairment, but there is mixed evidence that long-term sedative use may result in incident cognitive decline. The objective of this study was to investigate the use of sedative drugs and incident cognitive decline in a population-based sample of persons aged 75 years and older.
Methods: The study sample comprised 781 participants in the Geriatric Multidisciplinary Strategy for the Good Care of the Elderly (GeMS) study in Kuopio, Finland. Data on health status, drug use, and sociodemographic factors were elicited during annual nurse interviews from 2004 to 2007. A linear mixed model was used to compare change in Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) scores (2005–2007) among users of sedative drugs in 2004 and 2005 (n = 139) to non-users of sedative drugs from 2004 to 2007 (n = 310). The model was adjusted for covariates including age, gender, education, depressive symptoms and antipsychotic use.
Results: Unadjusted mean MMSE scores were 27.50 in 2005, 26.58 in 2006, and 25.95 in 2007 among users of sedative drugs. Unadjusted mean MMSE scores were 28.05 in 2005, 27.61 in 2006, and 27.09 in 2007 among non-users of sedative drugs. Adjusted mean MMSE scores were 0.31 points lower in 2005, 0.62 points lower in 2006, and 0.93 lower in 2007 among users compared to non-users of sedative drugs (P = 0.051).
Conclusions: Sedatives were not associated with statistically significant cognitive decline. However, clinicians should maintain a judicious approach to prescribing sedative drugs given the risk of adverse drug events.