The prevalence of psychiatric disorders in elderly residents of public housing

Peter V. Rabins, Betty Black, Pearl German, Robert Roca, Marsden McGuire, Larry Brant, Joan Cook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Background. This study estimates lifetime and one month prevalence of psychiatric disorders among elderly public housing residents. Method. Nine hundred forty-five residents of six public housing developments for the elderly were administered the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ), the Mini- Mental State Examination (MMSE), and the CAGE by lay interviewers. Residents screening positive and a 10% random sample of screen negatives were administered the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-III-R (SCID) and a DSM-III-R derived algorithm for dementia and delirium. Prevalence rates were estimated based on weighted data from 298 subjects. Results. Thirty-six percent of participants screened positive on at least one instrument. Based on the case identification interview, estimated lifetime prevalence of psychiatric disorders was 57.6%, and one-month prevalence was 27.9%. Cognitive disorder (10.5%), mood disorder (8.0%), psychotic disorder (4.6%), and substance abuse/dependence (4.4%) were the most common current disorders. Mood disorders (26.6%) and substance abuse/dependence (23.0%) were the most prevalent lifetime disorders. Compared to data from the Epidemiologic Catchment Area, public housing residents have higher current rates of mood disorder, schizophrenia, and substance use disorder. Conclusions. Elderly residents of public housing suffer higher rates of psychiatric morbidity than older people living independently in the community. The high prevalence of psychiatric disorders in this growing population of low-income elderly presents a challenge to the delivery of mental health service.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)M319-M324
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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