Prevalence and characteristics of catatonia on admission to an acute geriatric psychiatry ward

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This study aims to describe the prevalence of catatonia in a population of older acute psychiatric inpatients according to different diagnostic criteria. Secondary objectives are: to compare the catatonic symptom profile, prevalence, and severity, in respect to the underlying aetiology, and to evaluate the association between catatonic and somatic comorbidity.


The study included 106 patients admitted to an acute geriatric psychiatry ward. Catatonia was assessed using the Bush Francis Catatonia Rating Scale (BFCRS).


Catatonia was highly prevalent (n = 42; 39.6%), even when using restrictive diagnostic criteria: Fink and Taylor (n = 19; 17.9%) and DSM 5 (n = 22; 20.8%). Depression was the most frequent psychiatric syndrome among catatonic patients (n = 18; 42.8%). Catatonia was more frequent in depression (48.6%) and delirium (66.7%). Affective disorders showed a higher risk than psychotic disorders to develop catatonia (OR = 2.68; 95% CI 1.09–6.61). This association was not statistically significant when controlling for dementia and geriatric syndromes. The most prevalent catatonic signs were excitement (64.3%), verbigeration (61.9%), negativism (59.5%), immobility/stupor (57.1%), and staring (52.4%).


Catatonia in older psychiatric inpatients was highly prevalent. Depression was the most common psychiatric syndrome among catatonic patients, and catatonia was more frequent in depression and mania, as well as in delirium. Affective disorders were associated with a higher risk of developing catatonia compared to psychotic disorders. Somatic and cognitive comorbidity played a crucial aetiological role in catatonia in this series.

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