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Int Psychogeriatr. 2010 Jun;22(4):582-8. doi: 10.1017/S1041610210000293. Epub 2010 Mar 15.

Psychiatric services for the "old" old.

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  • 1School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia.



Few studies have specifically examined mental health service delivery to persons aged over 84 years, often described as the "old" old. Our aim was to compare mental health service provision in Australia to persons aged 85 years and over with the "young" old and other age groups. We hypothesized that the "old" old would differ from the "young" old (65-84 years) by diagnostic category, rates of specialist psychiatric hospital admission, and use of Medicare funded psychiatric consultations in the community.


Mental health service delivery data for 2001-02 to 2005-06 was obtained from Medicare Australia on consultant psychiatrist office-based, home visit and private hospital services subsidized by the national healthcare program and the National Hospital Morbidity database for separations (admitted episodes of patient care) from all public and most private hospitals in Australia on measures of age, gender, psychiatric diagnosis, location and type of psychiatric care.


Use of specialist psychiatric services in the community per annum per 1000 persons declined with age in men and women from 137.28 and 191.87 respectively in those aged 20-64 years to 11.84 and 14.76 respectively in those over 84 years. However, men and women over 84 years received psychiatric home visits at 377% and 472% respectively of the rates of persons under 65. The annual hospital separation rate per 1000 persons for specialist psychiatric care was lowest in those aged over 84 (3.98) but for inpatient non-specialized psychiatric care was highest in those over 84 (21.20). Depression was the most common diagnosis in specialized psychiatric hospitalization in those aged over 84 while organic disorders predominated in non-specialized care in each age group over 64 years with the highest rates in those aged over 84.


Mental health service delivery to persons aged over 84 is distinctly different to that provided to other aged groups being largely provided in non-specialist hospital and residential settings.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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