Medicine has made tremendous progress over the last few decades—and it’s helped a lot of people. Even so, each medicine comes with its own list of side effects. Depending on the medicine you take, a depression side effect is very possible.
Now, researchers are questioning whether that fact is contributing to depression rates in the United States.
Depression in America
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the nation. Millions of adults experience a major bout of the condition each year.
So, to find out if there was a correlation between depression and medication, lead researcher Dima Mazen Qato and her team studied data from the large National Health and Nutrition Survey (1).
The information covered five 2-year cycles and represented 26,000 US adults over age 18.
During the cycles, researchers observed that the number of people using medication with depression as a side effect increased, with an average around 37 percent.
Nearly seven percent of those were estimated to take three or more medications. This is not too surprising given that prescription drug use in the US is pretty high.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that as many as 48 percent of Americans take at least one prescription medication. About 23 percent take three or more. Because of that, there’s a good chance these medications are influencing people’s moods.
The rising depression side effect
Researchers confirmed that likelihood when looking at rates of depression concurrent with those taking potential depression-causing drugs.
They found that 15 percent of those who used three or more of these medications had depression. Meanwhile, only five percent who didn’t take them had depression.
Researchers did factor out those taking antidepressants since they could have skewed the results. However, researchers did find a similar pattern when they looked at people taking antidepressants separately from those who don’t.
What does it all mean?
The research cannot tell us whether these common medications are causing depression. Certainly, though, this information is raising some eyebrows.
Does it mean you should stop taking your own prescriptions? You’ll need to consult your doctor on that one.
What the study does suggest is that doctors and patients shouldn’t reach for meds too quickly, especially if there are other options available.
In addition, depression rates showed the biggest increase when patients took multiple medications.
The bottom line: too much medicine with a depression side effect could cause problems. Whether these drugs are contributing to the nation’s depression problem is still not understood.