Antidepressant Use Increasing in the United States
A marked and broad expansion in antidepressant treatment occurred among Americans older than age 6 between 1996 and 2005, although treatment rates remain low among racial and ethnic minorities, according to a report in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
Treatment for mental health conditions is becoming more common in the United States, according to background information in the article. “Several factors may have contributed to this trend, including a broadening in concepts of need for mental health treatment, campaigns to promote mental health care and growing public acceptance of mental health treatments,” the authors wrote. “In parallel with growth in mental health service usage, psychotropic medications have become increasingly prominent in treatment.” Antidepressants are now the most commonly prescribed class of medications in the United States.
Researchers analyzed data from the 1996 and 2005 Medical Expenditure Panel Surveys. A total of 18,993 individuals aged 6 and older were included in the 1996 survey and 28,445 in the 2005 survey. A designated adult in each household responded to questions regarding medical visits, prescriptions, conditions for which they were treated, and other variables.
Between 1996 and 2005, the rate of antidepressant treatment increased from 5.84% to 10.12% or from an estimated 13.3 million to 27 million individuals. “Significant increases in antidepressant use were evident across all sociodemographic groups examined, except African Americans, who had comparatively low rates of use in both years (1996, 3.61%; 2005, 4.51%),” the authors wrote. “Although antidepressant treatment increased for Hispanics, it remained comparatively low (1996, 3.72%; 2005, 5.21%).”
Among antidepressant users, the percentage who were also prescribed antipsychotic medications increased between 1996 and 2005 (5.46% vs. 8.86%), but fewer also underwent psychotherapy (31.5% vs. 19.87%). “Together with an increase in the number of antidepressant prescriptions per antidepressant user [an average of 5.6 vs. 6.93 per year], these broad trends suggest that antidepressant treatment is occurring within a clinical context that places greater emphasis on pharmacologic rather than psychologic dimensions of care,” the authors wrote.
— Source: American Medical Association