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Antidepressants used by 11% of Americans ages 12 and older

BOOSTER SHOTS: Oddities, musings and news from the
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October 19, 2011|By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • Antidepressant use among Americans has jumped 400% in the last 20 years.
Antidepressant use among Americans has jumped 400% in the last 20 years. (Robert Sullivan, AFP / Getty…)

Antidepressants apparently keep a lot of people functional, according to new data from the federal government.

The most recent statistics about antidepressant use in the United States, released Wednesday, show 11% of Americans ages 12 and older take the medication. Antidepressants are the most common prescription drug used by people ages 18 to 44. Almost one-quarter of all women ages 40 to 59 take antidepressants.

People tend to stick with the medications. More than 60% of those on antidepressants said they had taken it for two years or longer, and 14% had used the pills for 10 years or more.

The study found that from 1988 to 1994 and 2005 to 2008, antidepressant use increased nearly 400%. The upswing had much to do with the discovery of SSRI antidepressants (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors) that have fewer side effects than previous generations of the medications.

Some people may take antidepressants for reasons other than depression, such as control of menopausal symptoms. But the irony of the data, from the National Center for Health Statistics, is that the people who need antidepressants the most are not getting them. Only about one-third of people with severe depression take antidepressant medication.

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