Psychiatric disorders among the elderly on non-psychiatric wards in an African setting
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Background: The elderly are vulnerable to illness and particularly to psychiatric illness. Many mentally ill elderly patients end up on non-psychiatric wards owing to somatization of their illnesses. Even for these patients, a psychiatric diagnosis may not be made. The literature on the elderly in Uganda is very scanty. This study aims to establish the prevalence and factors associated with psychiatric disorders among elderly patients admitted to non-psychiatric wards. Methods: We carried out a descriptive cross-sectional study of 127 consenting elderly patients. They were administered a standardized questionnaire comprising the Self Reporting Questionnaire 25, the Mini-mental State Examination and the Structured Clinical Interview for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV. Study variables included socio-demographic characteristics, physical illnesses, psychiatric disorders and the treatment being given. Results: The rate of psychiatric morbidity was 48%. The sex ratio was 1:1; however, women had a higher rate of psychiatric illness than men, 54.6% and 41.3% respectively. Being widowed or separated and having cancer were associated with SRQ>5, p=0.02 and p=0.04 respectively. Depressive disorders were the most common at 25.2% and were more common in women. Increasing age was associated with dementia (p < 0.00). Conclusion: There is a high rate of psychiatric morbidity among the elderly in Uganda. Particular attention should be given to the psychological health of elderly people admitted to general hospitals.