US antidepressant use jumps 65 percent in 15 years

August 15, 2017 by E.j. Mundell, Healthday Reporter

(HealthDay)—The number of Americans who say they've taken an antidepressant over the past month rose by 65 percent between 1999 and 2014, a new government survey finds.

By 2014, about one in every eight Americans over the age of 12 reported recent antidepressant use, according to a report released Tuesday from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Women are nearly twice as likely as men to be taking the medications, the report found, with antidepressants used by 16.5 percent of females compared to just under 9 percent of males.

Also, "long-term antidepressant use was common," said a team led by Laura Pratt of the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

The researchers noted that "one-fourth of all people [surveyed] who took antidepressants over the past month reported having taken them for 10 years or more."

Why the steep rise in antidepressant use? Two psychiatrists offered up possible theories.

"Keeping in mind that antidepressants are used for a multitude of reasons—not simply depression—we should expect to see increased use of these medications as the FDA approves more indications for their use," said Dr. Ami Baxi, director of inpatient psychiatry at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

But Baxi also credited the rise in use of the drugs as "a sign of decreasing mental health stigma," where more people feel comfortable asking for help against depression and anxiety.

Another expert believes Americans could simply be living more stress-filled lives.

"People have become increasing stressed and depressed in our society," said Dr. Seth Mandel, who directs psychiatry at Northwell Health's Huntington Hospital in Huntington, N.Y.

"Social media continues to paradoxically cause people to be more isolated and out of touch with their feelings," he said.

"In addition, direct-to-consumer advertising, coupled with an evolving societal mindset to just take a pill to make things better, both contributed to the growth in antidepressant use over this time period," Mandel said.

The new report is based on replies by more than 14,000 Americans, aged 12 and older, to a federal government health survey conducted between 2011 and 2014. Results were compared to those from prior surveys stretching back to 1999.

Besides the notable gender gap in antidepressant use, the survey also found that whites were much more likely than blacks, Hispanics or Asian-Americans to avail themselves of the drugs. For example, while 16.5 percent of whites took an antidepressant over the past 30 days, that was true for just 5.6 percent of blacks, 5 percent of Hispanics and 3.3 percent of Asians, the study found.

According to Mandel, "there are two factors at play here, one being that whites tend to have greater access to psychiatric services than do minority groups. The other is cultural—it is often considered more OK culturally for whites to take antidepressants than for blacks or Hispanics, especially for men."

The fact that women are twice as likely as men to take an antidepressant may also have cultural roots, Mandel said.

"Despite our society being progressive, there are still ongoing gender stigma related to seeking treatment for depression. It is more 'OK' for a woman to be depressed and seek out treatment for this, whereas men are supposed to be tough, suck it up and move on," Mandel noted.

"One other possible confounder is that males, in my experience, are more upset by the sexual side effects associated with —such as erectile dysfunction and delayed ejaculation—and could make them more reluctant to take these medications," he explained.

And while some people with chronic depression may need to stay on the drug for years, in many cases long-term therapy may not be warranted. "I always re-evaluate whether these medications should be continued on at least a yearly basis," Mandel said.

The study was published Aug. 15 as an NCHS Data Brief.

Explore further: In US, many with severe depression go untreated

More information: Ami Baxi, M.D., director, inpatient psychiatry, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Seth A. Mandel, chairman of psychiatry, Northwell Health's Huntington Hospital, Huntington, N.Y.; U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics NCHS Data Brief, Aug. 15, 2017

Find out more about treating depression at the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Related Stories

In US, many with severe depression go untreated

October 19, 2011
The United States is a world leader in rates of antidepressant use, but as many as two-thirds of Americans with severe depression are not on medication, said a government study released Wednesday.

Study points to link between antidepressant use in pregnancy and autism in children

July 19, 2017
Children exposed to antidepressants during pregnancy seem to be at a slightly higher risk of autism than children of mothers with psychiatric disorders who were not treated with antidepressants during pregnancy, finds a study ...

Antidepressants commonly and increasingly prescribed for nondepressive indications

May 24, 2016
In a study appearing in the May 24/31 issue of JAMA, Jenna Wong, M.Sc., of McGill University, Montreal, Canada, and colleagues analyzed treatment indications for antidepressants and assessed trends in antidepressant prescribing ...

Study offers insight on antidepressant-induced female sexual dysfunction

September 28, 2016
One in 6 women in the U.S. takes antidepressants to improve her well-being, but what is she to do when the medication that is meant to help disrupts another area of her life?

Antidepressant side effects reported more by patients with co-occurring panic disorder

January 4, 2017
Patients who take medication for depression report more side effects if they also suffer from panic disorder, according to a new study led by researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago published in the Journal ...

Many US men with depression, anxiety don't get treated, CDC finds

June 11, 2015
(HealthDay)—Close to one in 10 American men suffers from depression or anxiety, but fewer than half get treatment, a new survey reveals.

Recommended for you

Analyzing past failures may boost future performance by reducing stress

March 23, 2018
Insights from past failures can help boost performance on a new task—and a new study is the first to explain why. US researchers report that writing critically about past setbacks leads to lower levels of the "stress" hormone, ...

Researcher unlocking relationship between early math ability, fingers

March 23, 2018
Ask toddlers how old they are, and they are likely to hold up the corresponding number of fingers and say, "this many."

How reciprocity can magnify inequality

March 22, 2018
People tend to reciprocate others' actions in ways that increase disparities in wealth, according to findings published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Building tolerance to anxiety is key to OCD symptom relief

March 22, 2018
Excessive hand washing, out of a fear of contamination or germs, is one of the most common and best-known examples of obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD. Though OCD can't be "cured," symptoms can be significantly reduced ...

Stopping exercise can increase symptoms of depression

March 22, 2018
Stopping exercise can result in increased depressive symptoms, according to new mental health research from the University of Adelaide.

Antioxidants and amino acids could play role in the treatment of psychosis

March 22, 2018
A scientific paper has revealed that some nutrients found in food may help reduce the symptoms of psychotic illness, when used in the early stages of treatment.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.