Antidepressant use is controversial, and studies on various types of antidepressant treatments have produced inconsistent findings. Some research suggests that people with depression benefit greatly from antidepressant therapy and realize decreased symptoms and better quality of life. Other research however, has shown that people who take antidepressants have outcomes similar to people who take placebos.
One important area of research relating to antidepressant use is the risk of suicide. Depression is a leading cause of suicide and antidepressant treatment is just one approach that has been explored as a method of reducing suicide rates. Although there is evidence that antidepressants can increase the risk of suicide, especially among younger individuals, there is also mixed evidence about the positive impact of antidepressant use on suicide prevention.
In an attempt to get a better picture on how antidepressants affect suicide rates, Ricardo Gusmao of the Department of Saúde Mental at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, in Portugal analyzed data from studies conducted in 29 European countries over a 30-year period. He looked at antidepressant use, socioeconomic status, divorce rates, alcohol use, and other demographic factors as part of his study.
Gusmao found that over an average span of 15 years, antidepressant use increased by approximately 20% each year. In this same time frame, suicide rates dropped by approximately .8% yearly. This finding suggests that antidepressant use had an overall positive effect on decreasing suicide rates in these countries.
When he looked at other factors, such as divorce, employment, and alcohol use, Gusmao discovered that the findings were inconsistent. In particular, countries such as Hungary that had increases in alcohol-related deaths, had decreases in suicide. This finding contradicts existing research which points to a direct link between alcohol use and suicide, especially among people with depression. But surprisingly, even though alcohol use rose by 25% in an 8-year period, suicides decreased by 20%. Additionally, some countries did not show suicide reduction as a result of antidepressant increase.
Gusmao believes these contradictory findings could be the result of shorter data periods and believes that for these specific studies, longer study periods could provide more consistent results. Regardless, the results of this current study show a decrease in suicides as antidepressant use increased. Gusmao added, “These findings underline the importance of the appropriate use of antidepressants as part of routine care for people diagnosed with depression, therefore reducing the risk of suicide.”
Gusmão, R., Quintão, S., McDaid, D., Arensman, E., Van Audenhove, C., et al. (2013). Antidepressant utilization and suicide in Europe: An ecological multi-national study. PLoS ONE 8(6): e66455. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0066455
© Copyright 2013 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.