May 29, 2024
Antidepressant Dispensing

Surge in Antidepressant Dispensing among Adolescents and Young Adults During Pandemic

The dispensing of antidepressants to adolescents and young adults has seen a significant increase since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a notable rise among females, as per a recent study.

Before the pandemic, there was already a growing number of young individuals aged 12 to 25 receiving antidepressants. However, the rate of antidepressant dispensing spiked nearly 64% faster post-March 2020, based on findings led by Michigan Medicine and published in Pediatrics.

Lead author Kao Ping Chua, M.D., Ph.D., a pediatrician and researcher at the University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and the Susan B. Meister Child Health Evaluation and Research Center, noted that antidepressant dispensing to adolescents and young adults was already on the rise prior to March 2020. The study suggests that these trends were accelerated during the pandemic.

Analyzing data from a national database that captures 92% of prescriptions dispensed in U.S. pharmacies, researchers observed that the surge in antidepressant dispensing during the pandemic was primarily driven by females.

Following March 2020, the rate increased by 130% among female adolescents aged 12–17 years and by 60% among female young adults aged 18–25 years.

Studies indicate a rise in anxiety and depression rates among female adolescents during the pandemic, which, along with the research findings, suggests that the pandemic worsened an existing mental health crisis among this demographic.

Interestingly, the antidepressant dispensing rate remained relatively unchanged among male young adults post-March 2020 and even decreased among male adolescents, surprising Chua.

Chua believes that the decline in male adolescents seeking antidepressants does not necessarily indicate an improvement in mental health but rather could be attributed to missed health care visits during the pandemic, leading to a decrease in opportunities for diagnosing and treating anxiety and depression in this group.

The shift away from in-person learning may have also reduced the chances for teachers and school staff to identify mental health issues in male adolescents.

Chua points out that the overall increase in antidepressant dispensing to adolescents and young adults may not solely be due to worsened mental health. Factors such as long waitlists for psychotherapy likely also contributed.

This has been echoed in Chua’s primary care clinic where patients and families reported facing waitlists of 6–9 months for therapy during the pandemic. In such cases, withholding antidepressants and solely recommending therapy seemed impractical.

Chua emphasizes the need for further research to pinpoint the best interventions to promote the mental well-being of adolescents and young adults.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research.
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it.