Effect of antipsychotics on mortality risk in patients with dementia with and without comorbidities

Ane Nørgaard*, Christina Jensen-Dahm, Theresa Wimberley, Jesper Hastrup Svendsen, Kazi Ishtiak-Ahmed, Thomas Munk Laursen, Gunhild Waldemar, Christiane Gasse

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


BACKGROUND: We investigated the mortality risk associated with the initiation of antipsychotic treatment among patients with dementia and whether comorbidities related to the cardiovascular system and diabetes interact with antipsychotic treatment to increase the mortality risk beyond the risk of death independently associated with antipsychotics and comorbidity alone.

METHODS: We designed a matched cohort study using nationwide registry data. All Danish residents aged 65-95 years diagnosed with dementia between 2009 and 2014 were included. Dementia was assessed as a first-time registered dementia diagnosis in the Danish National Patient Register or the Danish Psychiatric Central Research Register and/or a first-time prescription for antidementia medication. Patients exposed to antipsychotics were matched with up to three unexposed patients. Cox proportional hazards models were used to compare rates of death within 180 days after the initiation of antipsychotic treatment. The models were adjusted for potential confounders. Analyses were stratified for diabetes, heart disease, and cerebrovascular disease, and we calculated the relative excess risk due to interaction (RERI).

RESULTS: The study cohort included 8244 exposed patients and 24,730 unexposed patients. A total of 5938 patients died during the first 180 days of follow-up. Patients exposed to antipsychotics had a significantly higher adjusted risk of death (hazard ratio: 1.35, 95% confidence interval: 1.27-1.43) than unexposed patients. Crude mortality rates were higher among patients with heart disease and diabetes when antipsychotic treatment was initiated compared with patients without comorbidities. Relative risk estimates did not differ between patients with and without heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, and diabetes, and RERI suggested no positive additive interaction. Risk analysis suggested higher mortality in patients without cerebrovascular disease who initiated antipsychotics.

CONCLUSION: This nationwide study adds to the evidence that antipsychotic treatment is associated with increased mortality and suggests that attention should be paid to all initiators of antipsychotics irrespective of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Pages (from-to)1169-1179
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


  • antipsychotics
  • cardiovascular disease
  • dementia
  • diabetes
  • mortality


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