June 13, 2024

Antidepressant Use Surges in Youth Particularly Among Females Post COVID-19 Outbreak

A recent study conducted by Michigan Medicine indicates a significant rise in the dispensing of antidepressants to adolescents and young adults, especially females, following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings published in Pediatrics reveal a staggering 64% increase in the antidepressant dispensing rate among individuals aged 12 to 25 after March 2020. Dr. Kao Ping Chua, the lead author of the study from the University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, highlighted that while there was already a rising trend in antidepressant usage among young people before the pandemic, the rates accelerated dramatically during the pandemic.

The research, based on data from a national pharmacy database covering 92% of prescriptions in the U.S., pointed out that the surge in antidepressant dispensing was primarily driven by females. Following March 2020, the rate shot up by 130% among female adolescents aged 12-17 years and by 60% among female young adults aged 18-25 years. Dr. Chua suggested that numerous studies have indicated a rise in anxiety and depression rates among female adolescents during the pandemic, emphasizing that the crisis exacerbated pre-existing mental health issues in this demographic.

Surprisingly, the study noted that there was little change in the antidepressant dispensing rate among male young adults post-March 2020 and a decline among male adolescents. Dr. Chua speculated that this decline might not necessarily signify improved mental health but rather a consequence of reduced healthcare visits among male adolescents during the pandemic, limiting the detection and treatment of mental health conditions. The shift from in-person schooling could have also hindered the detection of mental health problems in male adolescents by teachers and school staff.

The spike in antidepressant dispensing was not solely attributed to worsening mental health conditions, according to Dr. Chua. Factors such as lengthy waitlists for psychotherapy during the pandemic also played a part, prompting healthcare providers to opt for antidepressant prescriptions instead of a therapy-only approach. Dr. Chua advocates for further studies to determine the most effective interventions to improve the mental health of adolescents and young adults.

Echoing the importance of addressing the escalating antidepressant use in youth, researchers from the University of Nebraska and Creighton University emphasized the need to comprehend the underlying causes and develop preventative strategies for mental health issues among young people. They noted that the increased prescription of psychoactive medications signifies a shortfall in preventing behavioral and psychological problems, underscoring the necessity for enhanced family and community support systems.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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