International Psychogeriatrics

Research Article

Comparison of behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia and psychotropic drug treatments among old people in geriatric care in 2000 and 2007

Hugo Lövheima1 c1, Yngve Gustafsona1, Stig Karlssona2 and Per-Olof Sandmana3

a1 Department of Community Medicine and Rehabilitation, Geriatric Medicine, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden

a2 Department of Nursing, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden

a3 Department of Neurobiology, Care Science and Society, Division of Nursing, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden


Background: Behavioral and psychological symptoms, such as verbal or physical aggression, aberrant motor behaviors, psychotic symptoms, anxiety, depressive symptoms and apathy are common among people with dementia. The aim of the present study was to compare the one-week prevalence of behavioral and psychological symptoms and psychotropic drug treatment among people with cognitive impairment living in institutional care, in two large, comparable samples from 2000 and 2007.

Methods: A comparison was made between two cross-sectional samples, collected in 2000 and 2007, comprising 4054 participants with cognitive impairment living in geriatric care units in the county of Västerbotten, Sweden. The Multi-Dimensional Dementia Assessment Scale (MDDAS) was used to assess cognitive impairment and behavioral and psychological symptoms. The use of psychotropic drugs was recorded.

Results: Between 2000 and 2007, 15 out of 39 behavioral or psychological symptoms had become less common and no symptoms had become more common, after controlling for demographic changes. Four out of six behaviors within the cluster of aggressive behaviors had declined in prevalence. Patients prescribed anti-dementia drugs increased from 5.1% to 18.0% and antidepressant drug use increased from 43.2% to 49.1%, while anxiolytic, hypnotic, sedative and antipsychotic drug use remained largely unchanged.

Conclusion: The prevalence of many behavioral symptoms had declined from 2000 to 2007, and among these changes, the decline in aggressive behaviors probably has the greatest clinical impact.

(Received March 07 2011)

(Revised April 09 2011)

(Revised July 10 2011)

(Accepted July 11 2011)

(Online publication September 09 2011)


c1 Correspondence should be addressed to: H. Lövheim, Department of Community Medicine and Rehabilitation, Geriatric Medicine, Umeå University, SE-901 85 Umeå, Sweden. Phone: +46 90 785 88 59; Fax: +46 90 13 06 23. Email: