Health

Do Antidepressants Help? Study Finds They’re Not Associated With Improved Long Term Physical or Mental Health

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

Among people with depression, those using antidepressants had no better quality of life in the long run.

Over time, using 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 findings 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 acknowledged that depressive illness has a major impact on patients’ health-related quality of life (HRQoL). While studies have demonstrated the usefulness of antidepressant drugs in the treatment of depression disorder, the effect of these medications on patients’ general well-being and HRQoL remains debatable.

In the new study, the researchers used data from the 2005-2015 United States’ Medical Expenditures Panel Survey (MEPS), a large longitudinal study that tracks the health services that Americans use. Any person with a diagnosis of depressive disorder was identified in the MEPS files. Over the course of 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 these were treated with antidepressant medicines.

Use of antidepressants was associated with some improvement on the mental component of SF-12—the survey tracking health-related quality of life. However, when this positive change was compared to the change in group of people who were diagnosed with depressive disorder but did not take antidepressants, there was no statistically significant association of antidepressants with either the physical (p=0.9595) or mental (p=0.6405) component of SF-12. In other words, the change in quality of life seen among those on antidepressants over two years was not significantly different from that seen among those not taking the drugs.

The study was not able to separately analyze any subtypes or varying 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 actual impact for pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions on these patients’ quality of life is needed. With that being said, the role of cognitive and behavioral interventions on the long term-management of depression needs to be further evaluated in an efforts to improve the ultimate goal of care for these patients; improving their overall quality of life.”

Reference: “Antidepressants and health-related quality of life (HRQoL) for patients with depression: Analysis of the medical expenditure panel survey from the United States” by Omar A. Almohammed, Abdulaziz A. Alsalem, Abdullah A. Almangour, Lama H. Alotaibi, Majed S. Al Yami and Leanne Lai, 20 April 2022, PLOS ONE.
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0265928

Funding: Omar A. Almohammed received funding from the 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, conducting the analysis, interpreting the data or writing the manuscript.

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