The Association Between Benzodiazepine Use and Depression Outcomes in Older Veterans

Amanda Leggett, Janet Kavanagh, Kara Zivin, Claire Chiang, Hyungjin M. Kim, Helen C. Kales

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Benzodiazepines (BZDs) are commonly prescribed to older adults with depression, but it is unknown whether they improve antidepressant (AD) adherence or depressive symptoms. We followed 297 older veterans diagnosed with depression and provided a new AD medication prospectively for 4 months. Data include validated self-report measures and VA pharmacy records. At initial assessment, 20.5% of participants were prescribed a BZD. Those with a BZD prescription at baseline were significantly more likely than those without to have a personality disorder, schizophrenia spectrum disorder, or other anxiety disorder, and higher depressive symptom and anxiety symptom scale scores on average. In adjusted regressions, BZD use was not significantly associated with AD adherence, any improvement in depressive symptoms, or a 50% reduction in depressive symptoms. Our results suggest BZD use concurrent with AD treatment does not significantly improve depressive outcomes in older veterans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)281-287
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Geriatric Psychiatry and Neurology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • adherence
  • antidepressants
  • benzodiazepines
  • depression
  • veterans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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