Benzodiazepine prescribing in elderly Australian general practice patients


Correspondence to:
Ms Alice Windle, PO Box 292, Murray Bridge, South Australia 5253. Fax: (08) 8531 1427; e-mail:


Objective: The use of benzodiazepines by elderly people is of limited therapeutic benefit and increases the risk of adverse events. This study aimed to examine the extent to which benzodiazepines are prescribed for elderly Australians.

Methods: Data for 3,970 individuals aged 65 years or more were extracted from a general practice database. Benzodiazepine prescriptions for 2002 were reviewed.

Results: Overall, 16% (95% CI 11–21%) of elderly patients had at least one benzodiazepine prescription. Females were almost twice as likely as males to be prescribed a benzodiazepine and prescription prevalence increased with age.

Conclusions: Despite risks, benzodiazepines are widely prescribed for the elderly. Limited availability and cost of alternative therapies and pressures on the primary care system in Australia may contribute to their continued overuse.

Implications: The prescribing of benzodiazepines for elderly Australians needs to be reduced by better managing sleep and anxiety problems.