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Much psychosis in elderly may go unnoticed

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10:01am, January 16, 2002

If you get to be 85 or older, you automatically become a member of the population group known as "the very old." New data reveal that psychotic symptoms among these seniors have been greatly underestimated, a finding with potential public health consequences.

Several population studies of elderly people with healthy brains have indicated that fewer than 3 percent of them suffer from psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions. These assessments have relied on interviews with volunteers between ages 65 and 75. So far, older individuals have rarely been studied.

The latest data, published in the January Archives of General Psychiatry, derive from interviews with 85-year-olds and their family members or other close acquaintances. In many cases, detailed medical records were also available.

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