Antidepressant Use in US Doubles

A new study found, that the number of Americans taking antidepressants doubled to 10.1 percent of the population in 2005 compared with 1996, increasing across income and age groups.

An estimated 27 million Americans ages 6 and older were taking the drugs by 2005, while their use of psychotherapy declined, according to Columbia University researchers, The New York Times reports.

Among users of antidepressants, the percentage receiving psychotherapy fell from 31.5% to less than 20%, the study says. About 80% of patients were treated by doctors other than psychiatrists.

Patients today may be more likely to ask about antidepressant advertising, says study author Mark Olfson of Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute. During the study, spending on direct-to-consumer antidepressant ads increased from $32 million to $122 million, The USA Today reports.

"I expected there to be an increase [in antidepressant use], but I didn't expect the increase to be as large as we actually found," Mark Olfson says.

Although part of the uptick can be linked to the fact that mental health treatment is becoming more common and accepted, Olfson tells WebMD that he fears the medications may sometimes be prescribed "in a casual way," WebMD reports.

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