Image of Luke Pilling, Ph.D.

Seniors with lower vitamin D levels face an increased risk for hospital‐diagnosed delirium, a new study has found.

Delirium is more common among older adults, and often follows hospitalization. Investigators examined inpatient data from more than 350,000 participants aged 60 and older from across the United Kingdom. They found that vitamin D deficiency (at levels lower than 25 nmol/L) predicted a large incidence in delirium in the hospital setting. 

Delirium risk wasn’t limited to patients with the lowest levels. Those with insufficient levels (25 to 50 nmol/L) were also at increased risk, wrote Luke Pilling, Ph.D., from the University of Exeter, Exeter, England.

The link between vitamin D and delirium held after the researchers adjusted for calcium levels, hospital‐diagnosed fractures, dementia, and other relevant factors. What’s more, genetic analysis revealed that participants carrying more vitamin D–increasing genetic variants were less likely to receive an incident delirium diagnosis, they reported. 

“Because low vitamin D levels are simple to detect and inexpensive and safe to correct, an intervention trial to confirm these results is urgently needed,” Pilling and colleagues concluded.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.