The British Journal of Psychiatry

Abstract

BACKGROUND This exploratory study compares the prevalence of personality disorders and traits in people over and under 55 years of age. The comorbidity between personality and other psychiatric disorders is also examined.

METHOD Psychiatrists examined 810 subjects in a two-stage community survey. The semi-structured Standardized Psychiatric Examination was used to diagnose all DSM-III personality disorders and other psychiatric disorders.

RESULTS The older subjects were significantly less likely than the younger subjects to have any personality disorder (6.6% v. 10.5%; relative odds = 0.42, 95% confidence interval = 0.25-0.70, P < 0.001). Antisocial and histrionic personality disorders were much less prevalent in the older than younger subjects (P < 0.05). The older subjects also had significantly fewer maladaptive personality traits (chi 2 = 88.9, d.f. = 3, P < 0.001). The patterns of comorbidity between personality disorders and other psychiatric disorders were different in the two age groups.

CONCLUSIONS It is important to evaluate personality in patients of all ages. While some older patients no longer meet criteria for personality disorder, maladaptive traits may become evident during times of stress.