Drugs & Aging

, Volume 25, Issue 6, pp 501–519 | Cite as

Tolerability of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors

Issues Relevant to the Elderly
  • Brian Draper
  • Karen Berman
Review Article


Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) continue to be the first-choice antidepressant treatment for the elderly as they have similar efficacy to other antidepressants but better tolerability. However, recent concerns have emerged regarding a range of adverse effects that are more likely to occur in the elderly. In part this relates to the increased risk of drug interactions. Platelet dysfunction induced by SSRIs with high serotenergic activity is associated with gastrointestinal bleeding in the first month of treatment, although the overall evidence is weak. The risk of falls and fractures in elderly patients taking SSRIs is similar to that reported with use of tricyclic antidepressants. Hyponatraemia due to induction of the syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone secretion may be life threatening in the elderly but in most cases is asymptomatic and reversible. Extrapyramidal disorders such as parkinsonism and dyskinesias are more common in the elderly but are rare. There is a very low risk of cerebrovascular adverse reactions in patients taking SSRIs. There are inconsistent findings linking SSRIs with suicidal behaviour in late life and with the risk of cancer. Most of the newly identified adverse effects are either relatively uncommon or of debatable significance. Few differences have been identified among the SSRIs that are of clinical significance. However, it is recommended in the elderly that SSRIs should be titrated slowly to recommended therapeutic doses and used cautiously with other agents known to have the potential for drug interactions.


Fluoxetine Paroxetine Sertraline Suicidal Behaviour Fluvoxamine 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this review. Brian Draper has received honoraria from Pfizer in the last 5 years for provision of educational sessions. Karen Berman has no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this review. The authors would like to thank Adis International Ltd for providing an initial literature search.


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Copyright information

© Adis Data Information BV 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Academic Department for Old Age Psychiatry, Euroa CentrePrince of Wales HospitalRandwick, SydneyAustralia
  2. 2.University of New South WalesSydneyAustralia

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