Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Use of anti-depressants doubled in a decade


  • Women are twice as likely to use antidepressants as men (female 13.4% vs male 6.7% in 2005); the ratio was the same in 1996. Studies consistently find that Western women are about twice as likely to report suffering from depression and anxiety disorders as men are. But these kinds of studies rely on self-report so this could merely mean that women are more willing to talk about their problems. This data suggests that they also seek treatment about twice as often.
  • The peak age bracket for antidepressants is 50-64, with 15.5% yearly use. This is more than double the rate in the 18-34 bracket. This surprised me, maybe because of the influence of books like Prozac Nation (tagline - "Young and Depressed in America"). So, it looks like the increasing use of antidepressants is not because younger people, having grown up in the "Prozac Era", are more accepting of them.
  • Antidepressants are a white thing - 12.0% of whites take them vs. about 5% of blacks and Hispanics. But it would be interesting to see a regional breakdown here. Are blue-state or red-state whites more likely to be medicated?
  • Family income was not correlated with antidepressant use, but the unemployed were twice as likely to use antidepressants: 22% in '05. This might be because unemployment is bad for your mental health, or because mental illness is bad for your employment prospects. Or both.
  • One of the questions in the survey asked people to rate their own mental health. Over 90% of Americans said it as "good", "very good" or "excellent" - including 80% of antidepressants users. This really surprised me, and suggests that these drugs are being prescribed to people who are not, overall, very unwell.