Non-Hispanic white persons are more likely to take antidepressant medication than persons of other races and ethnicities. Females are more likely than males to take antidepressant medication at every level of depression severity. About 14% of Americans taking antidepressant medication have done so for 10 years or longer. Less than one-third of persons taking a single antidepressant have seen a mental health professional in the past year.
Females are more likely to take antidepressants than are males, and non-Hispanic white persons are more likely to take antidepressants than are non-Hispanic black and Mexican-American persons. More than 60% of Americans taking antidepressant medication have taken it for 2 years or longer, with 14% having taken the medication for 10 years or more. Less than one-third of Americans taking one antidepressant medication and less than one-half of those taking multiple antidepressants have seen a mental health professional in the past year. Antidepressants were the third most common prescription drug taken by Americans of all ages in 2005a€“2008 and the most frequently used by persons aged 18a€“44 years (1).
Twenty-three percent of women aged 40a€“59 take antidepressants, more than in any other age-sex group. Among both males and females, those aged 40 and over are more likely to take antidepressants than those in younger age groups. Fourteen percent of non-Hispanic white persons take antidepressant medications compared with 4% of non-Hispanic black and 3% of Mexican-American persons (Figure 2). Overall, 40% of females and 20% of males with severe depressive symptoms take antidepressant medication (Figure 3). More than one-third of females with moderate depressive symptoms, and less than one-fifth of males with moderate depressive symptoms, take antidepressant medication. Use of antidepressant medication rises as severity of depressive symptoms increases among both males and females. More than 60% of Americans taking antidepressant medication have been taking it longer than 2 years (Figure 4).
In general, there was no significant difference between males and females in length of use of antidepressants.
Among persons taking antidepressants, approximately 14% take more than one antidepressant; the percentage was similar for males and females (data not shown).
Less than one-half of persons taking multiple antidepressants have seen a mental health professional in the past year (Figure 5). Among those taking multiple antidepressants, males are more likely than females to have seen a mental health professional in the past year. The likelihood of having seen a mental health professional increases as the number of antidepressants taken increases. About 8% of persons aged 12 and over with no current depressive symptoms took antidepressant medication. Slightly over one-third of persons aged 12 and over with current severe depressive symptoms were taking antidepressants.

Prescription drug use: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) participants were asked if they had taken a prescription drug in the past month.
Antidepressant medication: Prescription drugs were classified based on the three-level nested therapeutic classification scheme of Cerner Multum's Lexicon (6). Income group: Defined by dividing family income by a poverty threshold based on the size of the family. Severity of depressive symptoms: Measured in NHANES using the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQa€“9), a nine-item screener that asks questions about the frequency of symptoms of depression over the past 2 weeks (7). Length of use of antidepressants: Evaluated by asking participants how long they had been taking the medication.
The data do not indicate whether persons who contacted a mental health professional actually began treatment for depression.
This report is based on the analysis of data from interviews in the household and in the MEC. Of the 13,897 persons aged 12 and over who participated in the NHANES medical examination, analyses for this data brief included 12,637 persons with information on medication usage and depression severity. NHANES sample examination weights, which account for the differential probabilities of selection, nonresponse, and noncoverage, were used for all analyses.
All material appearing in this report is in the public domain and may be reproduced or copied without permission; citation as to source, however, is appreciated. From 1988a€“1994 through 2005a€“2008, the rate of antidepressant use in the United States among all ages increased nearly 400% (1).
While the majority of antidepressants are taken to treat depression, antidepressants also can be taken to treat anxiety disorders, for example. However, there is no difference by sex in rates of antidepressant use among persons aged 12a€“17 (Figure 1).
There were significant differences in antidepressant medication usage rates between groups.
This group may include persons taking antidepressants for reasons other than depression and persons taking antidepressants for depression who are being treated successfully and do not currently have depressive symptoms.
According to American Psychiatric Association guidelines, medications are the preferred treatment for moderate to severe depressive symptomatology (4).
Antidepressants were identified using the second level of drug categorical codes, specifically code 249. Income groups included less than 100% of the poverty level, 100% to less than 200% of the poverty level, and 200% or more of the poverty level.
PHQa€“9 is based on the diagnostic criteria for a major depressive episode in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (8). Among persons taking more than one antidepressant, the one they had taken the longest was used for Figure 4. The question also does not ask about mental health treatment received from primary care providers. The questions on prescription drug use were asked in the household interview, and the questions on depression were asked in the MEC.

Estimates by income group were based on 11,827 persons who also reported their family income.
Standard errors of the percentages were estimated using Taylor series linearization, a method that incorporates the sample design and weights. In cases where the chi square test was significant, differences between subgroups were evaluated using the univariate t statistic. Pratt is with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics, Office of Analysis and Epidemiology. Practice guideline for treatment of patients with major depressive disorder, third edition. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. In: National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveya€”1988a€“2008 data documentation, codebook, and frequencies. The report describes antidepressant use among Americans aged 12 and over, including prevalence of use by age, sex, race and ethnicity, income, depression severity, and length of use. The public health importance of increasing treatment rates for depression is reflected in Healthy People 2020, which includes national objectives to increase treatment for depression in adults and treatment for mental health problems in children (5).
For each drug reported, the interviewer recorded the product's complete name from the container. A test for trends was done to evaluate changes in the estimates by depression severity in Figure 3 and by number of antidepressants taken in Figure 5. Survey participants complete a household interview and visit a mobile examination center (MEC) for a physical examination and private interview. Brody and Qiuping Gu are with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics, Division of Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. Non-Hispanic white persons were more likely to take antidepressants than other race and ethnicity groups.
The annual interview and examination sample includes approximately 5,000 persons of all ages.
In 2005a€“2006, non-Hispanic black persons, Mexican-American persons, adults aged 60 and over, and low-income persons were oversampled to improve the statistical reliability of the estimates for these groups.
In 2007a€“2008, the same groups were oversampled with one exception: Rather than oversampling only the Mexican-American population, all Hispanic persons were oversampled. Among persons taking antidepressants overall, there was no significant difference in length of use between males and females. Among persons taking antidepressants, males were more likely than females to have seen a mental health professional in the past year.

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