Antidepressant use rates up nearly 64% in US since COVID-19 began, study shows

February 27, 2024  10:42

The number of antidepressants prescribed to teenagers and young adults, especially women, has increased dramatically after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study conducted in the United States.

In the case when, a larger number of young people aged 12-25 took antidepressants before this pandemic, after March 2020, the rate of prescribing antidepressants increased by about 64 percent, according to the results of the study, which was presented by experts at the University of Michigan and published in the journal Pediatrics.

Researchers looked at a US national database that contains information on 92 percent of prescriptions dispensed by US pharmacies. They found that more antidepressant prescriptions were given to women during the pandemic.

After March 2020, that indicator increased by 130 percent among teenage girls (ages 12-17) and by 60 percent among young women (ages 18-25).

Unlike women, the rate of prescription of antidepressants among young men virtually did not change after March 2020, but it decreased, among male adolescents—which surprised the researchers. According to them, a more likely explanation for this is that during the pandemic, male adolescents may have missed medical examinations, which had reduced the chances of diagnosis and treatment. Transitioning to remote learning during the pandemic also may have reduced detection of mental health problems among male teens by their teachers and other school staff.

According to the researchers, the overall increase in the number of antidepressant use in the US after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic may be related to more than just worsening mental health. Long lines for psychotherapy, for example, can also play a role.

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