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Study questions antidepressant impact on quality of life


Matt Woodley


21/04/2022 4:45:11 PM

People using antidepressants to treat depression have similar outcomes to those who do not, new research suggests.

Antidepressant blister packs.
Antidepressants are one of the most prescribed medications in Australia, with around one in seven people taking them daily. (Image: Christine Sandu)

Researchers have found the mental and physical outcomes for people with depression who take antidepressants are unlikely to differ over a two-year period from those who are not prescribed the drugs.
 
The findings, published in PLOS ONE, were derived from analysing data contained in the 2005–15 United States’ Medical Expenditures Panel Survey, a large longitudinal study that tracks the health services that Americans use.
 
Over the duration of the study, an average of 17.47 million adult patients were diagnosed with depression each year with two years of follow-up, and 57.6% of these people were treated with antidepressants.
 
While the use of antidepressants was associated with some improvement on the mental component of the SF-12 – a survey used to track health-related quality of life – it was not statistically significant when compared to the positive changes experienced by those who had depression but were not prescribed the medication.
 
Chair of RACGP Specific Interests Psychological Medicine, Dr Cathy Andronis, told newsGP the research shows why GPs need to take a ‘holistic biopsychosocial approach’ to mental health care. 
 
‘It confirms that treating anxiety and depression properly requires much more than managing symptoms,’ she said.  
 
‘People can feel calmer with medication, but this doesn’t necessarily translate into action to change maladaptive behaviours, resist unrealistic or unfair social stressors, and improve relationships so that their general functioning and wellbeing are better supported.’
 
Antidepressants are one of the most prescribed medications in Australia, with around one in seven people taking them daily. Their use among children is also increasing.
 
The majority of people captured by this study were female (67.9%), a larger proportion of whom received antidepressant medications (60.5% versus 51.5% of males).
 
The research also had some limitations and was not able to separately analyse any subtypes or varying severities of depression.
 
According to the authors, led by Assistant Professor Omar Almohammed of King Saud University, future research should investigate the use of non-pharmacological depression interventions used in combination with antidepressants.
 
‘Although we still need our patients with depression to continue using their antidepressant medications, long-term studies evaluating the actual impact for pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions on these patients’ quality of life is needed,’ they wrote.
 
‘With that being said, the role of cognitive and behavioural interventions on the long term-management of depression needs to be further evaluated in an effort to improve the ultimate goal of care for these patients; improving their overall quality of life.’
 
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