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Electroconvulsive therapy in older adults: 13-year trends


Objectives — To examine temporal trends in electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) use among all 12 million Ontario residents between January 1992 and December 2004 and to examine the differential trends in older adults, compared with younger ones.

Methods — We undertook a time-series analysis to examine annual trends in the use and prevalence of ECT, using linked provincial datasets. Descriptive data were presented for the population as a whole, and then trends were described separately by age groups (younger and older). As a comparator, we similarly examined antidepressant prevalence for older adults over the same time period.

Results — Overall rates of ECT prevalence were stable. Annual population rates of individuals receiving ECT increased by about 27%, from 12.3 per 100 000 population in 1992 to 15.6 per 100 000 in 1997, and then decreased to 12.5 per 100 000 by 2004. The population rates of ECT were about threefold higher among older adults, relative to the younger population. Antidepressant prevalence increased by 90.1% among older adults over the same time period. The female-to-male ratio was relatively stable over time.

Conclusions — The rate of ECT has been relatively stable since the early 1990s. Older adults were much more likely to be prescribed a course of ECT than younger adults. ECT remains a commonly prescribed treatment, particularly in old age.



Rapoport M, Mamdani M, Herrmann N. Can J Psychiatry. 2006; 51(9):616-9.

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