Muscle strength and sedative load in community-dwelling people aged 75 years and older: A population-based study

Heidi T. Taipale, J. Simon Bell, Danijela Gnjidic, Raimo Sulkava, Sirpa Hartikainen

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Background. Use of psychotropic and sedative drugs has been associated with impaired muscle strength. Muscle weakness predicts important outcomes for older people including functional disability and mortality. The objective of this study was to investigate if the use of drugs with sedative properties is associated with poorer muscle strength. 

Methods. Seven-hundred community-dwelling participants, aged 75 years and older, enrolled in the population-based Geriatric Multidisciplinary Strategy for the Good Care of the Elderly (GeMS) study in 2004 were included in the present analyses. Data on demographics, diagnostics, and drug use were collected during standardized interviews, conducted by trained nurses and verified through medical records. Physiotherapists conducted objective tests of handgrip strength, knee extension strength, and the five repeated chair stands test. Sedative load was calculated using a previously published model for each participant.

Results.Twenty-one percent of the participants (n = 147) had a sedative load of 1-2 and 8% (n = 58) had a sedative load 3 or more. After adjusting for covariates, participants with sedative load more than 0 had poorer performance on grip strength (p =. 009), knee extension strength (p =. 02), and five chair stands (p =. 003) than nonusers of drugs with sedative properties. Increasing sedative load was associated with poorer grip strength.

Conclusions. Use of drugs with sedative properties was associated with impaired muscle strength. Although we adjusted for diagnoses affecting physical function, the possibility of confounding by indication cannot be entirely excluded. Given that muscle strength is predictive of functional disability and mortality, further attention should be directed toward conducting regular reviews of drug therapy and reducing use of sedative drugs. 

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1384-1392
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Volume66 A
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Aged
  • Drug utilization
  • Hypnotics and sedatives
  • Muscle strength

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