Benzodiazepines are the most frequently consumed psychotropic drugs among older persons. This pharmacological class has been advised against in this group, due to the various risks associated with its use in an older population. This study seeks to determine the prevalence of benzodiazepine use in a non-institutionalized older population over the age of 75 that is registered in Family Health Units (USF) in the region of Minho, Portugal, as well as to characterize these patients and understand the link between benzodiazepine use and chronic medication use, risk of falls, and level of physical and functional dependence. The data extracted from the clinical records registered in the SAM®
were analyzed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS). A sample of 700 patients was obtained. These patients presented a mean age of 82.3 years, 62.7% were female, 95.3% were physically independent, and 38.0% were functionally independent. Almost half of the elder persons presented a moderate (36.9%) or high (11.4%) risk of falls. 37.9% of the patients were chronic benzodiazepines users, using between 1 and 3 active substances belonging to this pharmacological class, with a higher rate of use among women (p
< 0.001) and elder persons. There was a statistically significant association among the use of benzodiazepines, a functional independence, and a higher risk of falls. These pioneering findings in Portugal reveal a high prevalence of benzodiazepine use in the population studied and warn about the specific characteristics of said population and the importance in reducing the risks associated with the inappropriate prescription of these drugs.
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