Old Age Psychiatry


Old Age Psychiatry, also known as psychogeriatrics, is a sub-specialty of psychiatry that involves the study, prevention, and treatment of mental illness in the elderly. With an ageing population, the research focus on such concerns as dementia, squalor and depression in the elderly is becoming increasingly vital.

Current Research Projects

Current projects in Old Age Psychiatry involving members of the Discipline are listed below.


Clinical study of cases of severe domestic squalor in Central Sydney

  • Clinical Prof Snowdon and project colleagues have studied over 175 cases of severe domestic squalor, and the one-year outcome in most cases has been observed. The Environmental Cleanliness and Clutter Scale is being used to rate domestic environments. Guidelines for intervention and other papers have been published or are in press. Catholic Healthcare have developed a squalor hotline project from which data will be available to complement our catchment area information. A research protocol is being developed and funding will be sought.The database will continue to expand.
  • A study comparing ratings and assessments of squalor/hoarding in referred cases in Sydney and in a catchment area in Holland is being planned. A study of animal hoarding has been proposed and awaits Ethics approval.
  • Assessments of a number of people who live in severe domestic squalor have been compared with comparable data gathered from matched controls, looking particularly at evidence of frontal lobe pathology. A paper is in press.
  • A review on hoarding has been submitted for publication, and a discussion of hoarding and squalor in relation to proposed DSM-V changes has been prepared for publication.
  • A book on squalor and hoarding is in preparation.
John Snowdon

Psychological autopsy study of people aged 35 years or more who killed themselves

  • Clinical Prof Snowdon and project colleagues have made a comparison study of suicidalities with a sample who died suddenly in accidents or from another cause. Funded through ARC. We have completed data collection and analysis is in progress.
John Snowdon

Depression and Early Prevention of Suicide in General Practice Project

  • Multi-state study of over 20,000 patients, seen by over 300 GPs. Funded through NHMRC. Analysis is being completed. Various papers have been published.
John Snowdon
Prevalence of personality disorder in elderly psychiatric inpatients and the effect on outcome of comorbid personality disorder
  • Dr Stevenson's four-year project compares the prevalence and types of personality disorder across three age groups (18-40, 41-64, 65+) and breaks the personality disorders into three clusters. It also looks at the differences in severity over the age range, and the relationship between personality disorders and the various axis one disorders.
  • The second branch of the project looks at the outcome of each subject comparing those with and without comorbid personality disorder. Symptomatic and functional outcome are measured as well as morbidity and well-being. Again the three age groups are compared.
  • Possible confounding variables are also explored, such as coping strategies, social supports, physical morbidity and personality disorders severity.
Janine Stevenson

Medication use in nursing homes in Central Sydney

  • Clinical Prof Snowdon and project colleagues are examining medication use in Sydney nursing homes. Further research will be undertaken in relation to anti-dementia drugs used in nursing homes.
John Snowdon

Investigation into the use of the Cornell Scale in nursing homes

  • Clinical Prof Snowdon and project colleagues are conducting research on the use of the Cornell Scale in Sydney and Melbourne aged-care facilities. Funded by the Centre for Mental Health and Wellbeing Research.
John Snowdon


Discipline members with an interest in Old Age Psychiatry are: