Do antidepressants help? Study finds they’re not associated with improved long-term physical or mental health

Long-term use of antidepressants did not improve the physical or mental health of patients with depression according to a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Among people with depression, those taking antidepressants had no better long-term quality of life.

Over time, the use of antidepressants is not associated with significantly better health-related quality of life, compared to people with depression who do not take the drugs. These are the conclusions of a new study published on April 20, 2022 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Omar Almohammed of King Saud University, Saudi Arabia, and colleagues.

It is widely recognized that depressive illness has a major impact on the health-related quality of life (HRQoL) of patients. Although studies have demonstrated the usefulness of antidepressants in the treatment of depressive disorder, the effect of these medications on the general well-being and HRQoL of patients remains questionable.

In the new study, the researchers used data from the 2005-2015 United States Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), a large longitudinal study that tracks the health services used by Americans. Anyone with a diagnosis of depressive disorder was identified in the MEPS files. During the study, 17.47 million adult patients were diagnosed with depression on average each year, with two years of follow-up, and 57.6% of them were treated with antidepressant medication.

Antidepressant use was associated with some improvement on the mental component of the SF-12, the Health-Related Quality of Life Survey. However, when this positive change was compared to the change in the group of people who were diagnosed with a depressive disorder but did not take antidepressants, there was no statistically significant association of antidepressants with physique ( p = 0.9595) or mental (p = 0.6405) component of the SF-12. In other words, the change in quality of life seen in people on antidepressants over two years was not significantly different from that seen in those not taking the drugs.

The study was unable to separately analyze subtypes or different severities of depression. The authors say that future studies should investigate the use of non-pharmacological depression interventions used in combination with antidepressants.

The authors add: “Although we still need our patients with depression to continue using their antidepressant medications, long-term studies evaluating the real impact of pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions on the quality of life of these patients are necessary. . That being said, the role of cognitive and behavioral interventions in the long-term management of depression needs to be further evaluated with the aim of improving the ultimate goal of care for these patients; improve their overall quality of life.

Reference: “Antidepressants and Health-Related Quality of Life (HRQoL) for Patients with Depression: Analysis of the United States Medical Expenditure Panel Survey” by Omar A. Almohammed, Abdulaziz A. Alsalem, Abdullah A. Almangour, Lama H. ​​Alotaibi, Majed S. Al Yami and Leanne Lai, April 20, 2022, PLOS ONE.
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0265928

Funding: Omar A. Almohammed received funding from Researcher Supporting Project number (RSP-2021/77), King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to support the publication of this article. The funding agency had no role in designing the study, performing the analysis, interpreting the data, or writing the manuscript.

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