More Americans Than Ever Are on Antidepressants - Carlos Gamino

By Carlos Gamino

According to a new report issued by the National Center for Health Statistics, nearly 13 percent of people aged 12 and older said they took an antidepressant within the last month. The report gathered data between 2011 and 2014, which is the most recent available; the number had jumped about 2 percent from the period between 2005 and 2008.

Time Magazine says that about 16 million people in the U.S. are suffering from depression, and global revenue from antidepressants alone is projected to grow to nearly $17 billion within the next few years.

So why are antidepressants so popular? Are more people being diagnosed with depression and related disorders that have always been there, or are we just becoming more depressed?

Depression is the leading cause of disability in the world, not just in the U.S., and it costs the U.S. economy about $210 billion a year in lost productivity, missed work, and care.

The first antidepressants were introduced about 60 years ago, and now there are more than 20 FDA-approved drugs to treat the condition. For most people, a combination of drugs and in-person therapy can diminish depressive symptoms and speed up recovery—but for some, nothing seems to work. Approximately 30 percent of all people who have been diagnosed with depression don’t respond to the treatments available.

According to CBS News, 8.3 million adults (that’s 3.4 percent of the population) suffer from “serious psychological distress.”

Some experts, like Judith Weissman, research manager in the department of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center, say that it’s an after-effect of the Great Recession that began in 2007.

“Mental illness is on the rise. Suicide is on the rise. And access to care for the mentally ill is getting worse,” says Weissman. “Earning and sustaining a living is getting harder for people, especially for men. The loss of jobs could mean there’s a loss of community and a loss of role as wage earners and providers.”

Dr. Harsh Trivedi, president and CEO of Sheppard Pratt Health System, offers another reason.

“In the past, you may go out and meet with your friends and talk about something, but when you got home you’d go to sleep,” Trivedi says. “The difficulty now is you can’t really turn things off. We don’t necessarily have downtimes to recharge and get our bearings straight again.”

What Do You Think?

Do you think we’re becoming more depressed, or simply that more cases of depression are being diagnosed? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please share them on my Facebook page or on Twitter!

Carlos Gamino