Patients who take drugs to treat insomnia or anxiety could be increasing their risk of dying by more than a third, according to new research.
According to a study of more than 14,000 people, it was found that those who took drugs to treat the conditions at least once a month had a 36% higher likelihood of dying from any cause.
Scientists at the Laval University School of Psychology, in Canada, took into account a number of factors. These included whether people drank or smoked heavily, were fit and took exercise, or whether they were depressed. Led by Genevieve Belleville, the research took into account data of people aged 18 to 102, who were surveyed every year between 1994 and 2007.
One suggested reason for the effect is that sleeping pills and anti-anxiety drugs affect people’s response times, alertness, and co-ordination. This may make them more prone to falls and other accidents.
Another theory is that they interfere with the breathing system and affect any breathing problems as the person sleeps.
The medicines also work on the central nervous system, possibly increasing the risk of suicide.
Dr Belleville said people should consider a type of talking therapy, called cognitive behavioural therapy, instead.