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Rates of Depression Rise among VA Nursing Home Residents


Despite the recognition that nursing homes serve many mentally ill residents, surprisingly little is known about longitudinal changes in the prevalence of mental health disorders. Better information is critical for understanding the impact of policy changes, projecting future needs, and ensuring adequate care. Thus, this study sought to identify recent changes in the prevalence of mental health disorders among VA nursing home residents. Prevalence rates for mental illness were compared for age groups and birth cohorts of VA nursing home admissions in 1998 (N = 27,734) and 2006 (N = 32,543).

Findings show prevalence rates for dementia and schizophrenia fluctuated moderately from 1990 to 2006, but prevalence rates for depression were substantially higher in 2006 than in 1998 for all age groups and birth cohorts (up from 27% to 37% overall). Results also show that PTSD was more prevalent (up from 5% to 12%) for all age groups and birth cohorts, while the prevalence of alcohol use disorders declined for all birth cohorts and most age groups (overall decline from 18% to 16%). The prevalence of serious mental illness (e.g., schizophrenia, bipolar and manic disorders) was relatively stable over this time period, except for increases among the oldest residents and birth cohorts (overall increase from 19% to 22%). Understanding recent changes in the prevalence of mental health disorders among VA nursing home residents can contribute to optimal planning to meet their treatment needs.

PubMed Logo Lemke S and Schaefer J. Recent changes in the prevalence of mental health disorders among VA nursing home residents. Psychiatric Services April 2010;61(4):356-63.

This study was partly funded by HSR&D (IIR 03-243). Drs. Lemke and Schaefer are part of HSR&D’s Center for Health Care Evaluation in Palo Alto.

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What are HSR&D Publication Briefs?

HSR&D requires notification by HSR&D-funded investigators about all articles accepted for publication. These journal articles are reviewed by HSR&D and publication briefs or summaries are written for a select number of articles that are then forwarded to VHA Central Office leadership to keep them informed about important findings or information. Articles to be summarized are selected by HSR&D based on timeliness of the findings, interest of leadership, or potential impact on the organization. Publication briefs are written for only a small number of HSR&D published articles. Visit the HSR&D citations database for a complete listing of HSR&D articles and presentations.