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Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2001 May;16(5):462-8.

Persecutory symptoms and perceptual disturbance in a community sample of older people: the Islington study.

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Senior Lecturer in Psychiatry, Royal Free and University College Medical School, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, London, UK.



While there are extensive studies of paranoid symptoms and perceptual disturbance (PPD) in younger adults, relatively little is known about older adults with similar symptoms.


This study took place in Islington, an inner London borough. Enumeration Districts were randomised to provide a sampling frame. Residents aged 65 or over were interviewed at home. The Short-CARE was used to elicit psychiatric symptoms and diagnosis. Sociodemographic particulars were elicited using the Client Sociodemographic and Service Receipt Inventory. Questions were asked regarding sight and hearing. We used subsections of the geriatric mental scale to identify people who had PPD symptoms. Medications taken were recorded. We asked 'Do you have any health problems?' as a screening question for subjective health problems.


We interviewed 720 people. Twenty-eight (3.9%) participants scored positively on the PPD sub-scales of the GMS. A forward logistic regression analysis for independent predictors of PPD found the significant independent predictors were dementia (p = 0.0000; odds ratio 6.8), drinking alcohol in last 6 months (p < 0.03; odds ratio 0.3), drinking alcohol to help sleep (p < 0.005; odds ratio 9.6), subjective memory loss (p < 0.007; odds ratio 3.3) and uncorrected visual impairment (p < 0.02; odds ratio 2.8).


There is a relatively high prevalence of PPD in older people living in the community. This is not associated with higher use of services despite the increased needs. Further studies should consider interventions to meet this unmet need.

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