Cause or effect? selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and falls in older adults: A systematic review

Marie Anne Gebara, Kim L. Lipsey, Jordan F. Karp, Maureen C. Nash, Andrea Iaboni, Eric J. Lenze

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


A 2012 update of the Beers criteria categorizes selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) as potentially inappropriate medications in all older adults based on fall risk. The application of these recommendations, not only to frail nursing home residents, but to all older adults, may lead to changes in health policy or clinical practice with harmful consequences. A systematic review of studies on the association between SSRIs and falls in older adults was conducted to examine the evidence for causation. Twenty-six studies met the inclusion criteria. The majority of studies were observational and suggest an association between SSRIs and falls. The direction of the relationship - causation or effect - cannot be discerned from this type of study. Standardized techniques for determining likely causation were then used to see if there was support for the hypothesis that SSRIs lead to falls. This analysis did not suggest causation was likely. There is no Level 1 evidence that SSRIs cause falls. Therefore, changes in the current treatment guidelines or policies on the use of SSRIs in older adults based on fall risk may not be justified at this time given the lack of an established evidence base. Given its significance to public health, well-designed experimental studies are required to address this question definitively.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1016-1028
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Falls
  • SSRI
  • older adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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