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Characteristics of older adults hospitalized in acute psychiatric units in Ontario: a population-based study


Objective — As the numbers of older adults in Canada increases, there will be a growing need for mental health services for this population. Acute psychiatric units (APUs) provide inpatient psychiatric services for the management of serious mental illness. Understanding the characteristics of older adults in APUs is necessary to determine the range of inpatient services required for this population.

Method — The researchers conducted a population-based study of all adults discharged from APUs in Ontario in a 2-year period, 2008–2010, using administrative databases. They compared the characteristics of older adults (aged 66 years and older) in APUs to those of younger adults (aged 18 to 65 years), including sociodemographics, psychiatric and medical diagnoses, and measures of cognition and functioning.

Results — There were a total of 79 352 discharges from APUs, with older adults accounting for 8.8% of all discharges. Depressive disorder was the most common diagnosis, both in older and in younger populations (32.1% and 29.9%, respectively), while dementia accounted for 19.5% of discharges for older adults. Older adults, compared with younger adults, were more likely to have 2 or more chronic medical conditions (83.8% and 20.5%, respectively), significant cognitive impairment (47.0% and 14.5%, respectively), and moderate-to-severe functional impairment (21.8% and 3.3%, respectively).

Conclusions — Older adults in APUs are a complex group, with mental health and medical care needs that differ from younger adults. APUs must be able to provide adequate psychiatric, medical, and interprofessional services to achieve optimal outcomes. Future studies are required to understand the quality of care and outcomes for older adults in APUs.



Seitz DP, Vigod SN, Lin E, Gruneir A, Newman A, Anderson G, Rapoport MJ, Rochon P, Blumberger DM, Herrmann N. Can J Psychiatry. 2012; 57(9):554-63.

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