The use of antidepressants soared in the United States in recent decades with the development of Prozac and other similar drugs. But just how commonly are they used? Very commonly, it turns out, according to the latest federal data.
More than one out of every 10 Americans over the age of 12 — 11 percent — takes an antidepressant, according to a new analysis from federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.
Researchers analyzed data collected from 12,637 people who participated in the center’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, which gets information from about 5,000 Americans of all ages every year.
Antidepressants are the third most-commonly prescribed drug among Americans of all ages, and the most frequently used by Americans ages 18 to 44.
Overall, women are more than twice as likely as males to take an antidepressant, the analysis shows. The biggest users are women ages 40 to 59. Twenty-three percent of women in that age group take one. Among males and females ages 12 to 17, 3.7 percent took an antidepressant, compared with 6.1 percent of those ages 18 to 39, 15.9 percent of those 40 to 59 and 14.5 percent of those 60 and older.
Whites use antidepressants more commonly than anyone else, the surveys show. Fourteen percent of whites take an antidepressant, compared with 4 percent of blacks and 3 percent of Mexican-Americans.
About 14 percent of Americans who take an antidepressant have been doing so for at least 10 years, the surveys showed. More than 60 percent have been taking it for more than two years.
About 8 percent of Americans over age 12 with no current depression symptoms take the drugs for other reasons, according to the surveys. And less than one-third of Americans taking one antidepressant and less than half of those taking multiple antidepressants had seen a “mental health professional” in the previous year.
Norman Sussman, a psychiatrist at New York University, said it was a concern that many people are apparently getting their antidepressants prescribed by doctors who were not psychiatrists.
“It raises the use to a public health level. The fact that non-psychiatrists are not as well-informed about some of the risks and limitations of these drugs is of concern,” Sussman said.