National Patterns in Antidepressant Medication Treatment | Depressive Disorders | JAMA Psychiatry | JAMA Network
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Original Article
August 2009

National Patterns in Antidepressant Medication Treatment

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Psychiatry, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, and New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York (Dr Olfson); and School of Social Policy and Practice, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (Dr Marcus).

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2009;66(8):848-856. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2009.81

Context  Antidepressants have recently become the most commonly prescribed class of medications in the United States.

Objective  To compare sociodemographic and clinical patterns of antidepressant medication treatment in the United States between 1996 and 2005.

Design  Analysis of antidepressant use data from the 1996 (n = 18 993) and 2005 (n = 28 445) Medical Expenditure Panel Surveys.

Setting  Households in the United States.

Participants  Respondents aged 6 years or older who reported receiving at least 1 antidepressant prescription during that calendar year.

Main Outcome Measures  Rate of antidepressant use and adjusted rate ratios (ARRs) of year effect on rate of antidepressant use adjusted for age, sex, race/ethnicity, annual family income, self-perceived mental health, and insurance status.

Results  The rate of antidepressant treatment increased from 5.84% (95% confidence interval [CI], 5.47-6.23) in 1996 to 10.12% (9.58-10.69) in 2005 (ARR, 1.68; 95% CI, 1.55-1.81), or from 13.3 to 27.0 million persons. Significant increases in antidepressant use were evident across all sociodemographic groups examined, except African Americans (ARR, 1.13; 95% CI, 0.89-1.44), who had comparatively low rates of use in both years (1996, 3.61%; 2005, 4.51%). Although antidepressant treatment increased for Hispanics (ARR, 1.75; 95% CI, 1.60-1.90), it remained comparatively low (1996, 3.72%; 2005, 5.21%). Among antidepressant users, the percentage of patients treated for depression did not significantly change (1996, 26.25% vs 2005, 26.85%; ARR, 0.95; 95% CI, 0.83-1.07), although the percentage of patients receiving antipsychotic medications (5.46% vs 8.86%; ARR, 1.77; 95% CI, 1.31-2.38) increased and those undergoing psychotherapy declined (31.50% vs 19.87%; ARR, 0.65; 95% CI, 0.56-0.72).

Conclusions  From 1996 to 2005, there was a marked and broad expansion in antidepressant treatment in the United States, with persisting low rates of treatment among racial/ethnic minorities. During this period, individuals treated with antidepressants became more likely to also receive treatment with antipsychotic medications and less likely to undergo psychotherapy.