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The Co-Occurrence of Polypharmacy and Unmet Needs for Social Care in Older People: A Systematic Review

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Laurie Davies, Dr Gemma Frances SpiersORCiD, Dr Andrew KingstonORCiD, Professor Adam ToddORCiD, Professor Barbara Hanratty



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2024 Laurie E. Davies et al.Polypharmacy is common in older people who often live with disability and dependency. The number of older people living with unmet needs for social care is also believed to be rising. Polypharmacy is simple to operationalise, whilst unmet needs are not routinely identified but are known to adversely affect health and well-being. Therefore, this systematic review aimed to investigate whether polypharmacy is a marker of unmet needs for social care in older people. Sixteen databases were searched from inception to January 2021. Studies were included if they reported quantitative data for polypharmacy ("multiple medicines") in relation to unmet needs for social care ("relative or absolute") in older people ("study criteria aged ≥55 years or mean age ≥55 in the sample as a whole or stratified data for the ≥55-year age group") and were from a high-income country (defined by the World Bank). Quality was assessed using the National Institute for Health tool for observational studies. Four studies were identified from 2,549 citations, and overall, the quality of evidence was low. Some older people using multiple medications had their social care needs met, whilst others did not. However, there is a clear rationale as to why polypharmacy may be linked to unmet social care needs. Given the limited studies identified in this review, future research should explore this further. The type of unmet need measure may be important to understand the nature of the relationship between the use of multiple medications and unmet social care needs.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Davies LE, Spiers GF, Kingston A, Todd A, Hanratty B

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Health and Social Care in the Community

Year: 2024

Volume: 2024

Online publication date: 09/02/2024

Acceptance date: 19/01/2024

Date deposited: 04/03/2024

ISSN (print): 0966-0410

ISSN (electronic): 1365-2524

Publisher: Wiley-Hindawi


DOI: 10.1155/2024/9849110


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Funder referenceFunder name
National Institute for Health Research School for Primary Care Research (NIHR SPCR).