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BACKGROUND: Benzodiazepine use is widespread in older people, although its benefit is uncertain. AIM: To investigate the long-term effect of benzodiazepine use upon dementia risk. METHODS: A prospective cohort of men seen on five occasions over 22 years with full medication histories, repeat measures of cognitive function and a clinical diagnosis of dementia. RESULTS: Of 1134 men with complete data, 103 (9.1%) had been taking benzodiazepines regularly at one or more phases. These men showed a marked increased incidence of dementia (OR=3.50, 95% CI 1.57 to 7.79, p=0.002), which persisted despite adjustment for psychological distress and other covariates. Men exposed in earlier phases showed a greater association than more recent exposure, counter to what one would expect if this was due to reverse causation, though we failed to demonstrate a dose-response effect with drug duration. CONCLUSION: The taking of benzodiazepines is associated with an increased risk of dementia.

Original publication




Journal article


J Epidemiol Community Health

Publication Date





869 - 873


Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Aging, Benzodiazepines, Cognition, Confidence Intervals, Dementia, Follow-Up Studies, Humans, Incidence, Logistic Models, Male, Middle Aged, Odds Ratio, Prospective Studies, Risk Factors, Time Factors, Wales