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Antidepressant study yielded 'unexpected' results, researcher says

Researchers say mental health worsened during the pandemic, and there are concerns many cases among males are going undiagnosed.
Antidepressant study yielded 'unexpected' results, researcher says
Posted at 12:56 PM, Feb 26, 2024

A new study published in the journal Pediatrics by the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests there has been a massive increase in teenage and young adult women using antidepressants in recent years. 

This jump was particularly stark following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to the study, which researchers at the University of Michigan led, the rate of antidepressant dispensing increased by 130% from March 2020 through the end of 2022. Among young adult women, the rate of dispensing of antidepressants increased by 57%.

Meanwhile, there has been little change in the rate of antidepressant dispensing among young adult males, and antidepressant dispensing among adolescent males actually dropped from March 2020 through December 2022. 

"The increase in the antidepressant dispensing rate was especially pronounced among female adolescents, consistent with other studies showing that mental health worsened and mental health utilization increased in this age group during the pandemic," study lead author Kao-Ping Chua wrote. 

Although the increased rates might seem concerning for young females, he is also concerned that depression among young males is going undiagnosed. 

"The decline in antidepressant dispensing to male adolescents was unexpected and potentially raises the concern about underdiagnosis and undertreatment of mental health symptoms. We plan to do further studies to evaluate this concerning possibility," he said.

SEE MORE: Increasing US death rate tied to maternal mental health, study finds

The Mayo Clinic says that antidepressants are effective at treating depression among teens and young adults but can come with side effects. Antidepressants have a warning label that notes an increased risk of suicide among antidepressant users under age 25. 

But the Mayo Clinic says the warning should not prevent teens and young adults from seeking treatment. 

"Although at first you may find the suicide warning alarming, it's important to get the facts. Find out what the warning means and ask about all treatment options. This will help you make an informed decision about your child's health and weigh the benefits and risks of treatment options with your child's doctor," the Mayo Clinic says. 

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