Lifestyles of the Happy

Antidepressant use may be lower in women with healthier lifestyles

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Dominique Brooks, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Depression and anxiety can be difficult to overcome, and medications can often help. Some lifestyle changes may help, as well.

A new study found that women with unhealthy lifestyles were more likely than women with healthy lifestyles to use antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), or to have used these SSRIs in the past.

The researchers looked at lifestyle habits such as unhealthy eating, alcohol and tobacco use and obesity, and found that these factors may increase a woman's chances of using, or having used, SSRIs.

"Talk to your doctor about lifestyle changes that support your well-being."

Kristina Laugesen, MD, from Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark, and colleagues conducted this study to look at the relationship between lifestyle factors of women of childbearing age and the use of SSRIs.

SSRIs are a group of medications which are commonly used to treat depression and anxiety. SSRIs change brain chemistry in a way that that changes mood.

Commonly prescribed SSRIs include citalopram (brand name Celexa), escitalopram (brand name Lexapro), fluoxetine (brand name Prozac), paroxetine (brand names Paxil and Pexeva) and sertraline (brand name Zoloft).

The authors noted that prior research linked SSRI use in pregnant women to negative pregnancy outcomes such as low birth weight.

The researchers used data from 4,234 women between the ages of 25 and 44 years who participated in a public health survey. The data collected was on lifestyle factors such as healthy eating, tobacco and alcohol use and physical activity.

The researchers were also able to get information on whether the women in the study used SSRIs currently or in the past. They analyzed the relationship between the various lifestyle factors and SSRI use.

This study found that women with unhealthy lifestyles were 1.5 times more likely to use SSRIs or to have used SSRIs in the past.

The study also found the following:

  • Obese women were 1.5 times more likely to use SSRIs than women who were not obese.
  • Women who smoked were 1.6 times more likely than non-smoking women to use SSRIs.
  • Women who drank seven or more drinks weekly were 1.8 times more likely to be SSRI users.
  • Women with unhealthy diets were 1.7 times more likely to use SSRIs than women whose diets were healthy.
  • Women’s use of SSRIs did not change depending on whether they were regularly physically active.

The study's authors noted that their sample may not have been perfect, as the women who volunteered to participate in the survey may be more health conscious than is typical. This could have caused the researchers to underestimate the use of SSRIs in the general public.

The authors also noted that counting prescriptions being filled is not a perfect way to measure how much a medication is actually being used.

"It is key to collaborate with health and wellness experts when it comes to our physical and mental health.  When discussing these issues with my clients, I often share with them that it is a team approach just as with playing sports.  All team members are key to the success of the team not just the 'quarterback or the goalie.'  Action oriented approaches to well-being to include physical and mental exercise are key to overall health and well-being as well as medication management," Patricia Adams, LMFT, President of Zeitgeist Wellness Group, told dailyRx News. 

This study was published July 31 in BMJ Open.

The study was funded by the Clinical Epidemiology Research Foundation of Aarhus University Hospital. The authors reported no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
August 3, 2013
Last Updated:
August 7, 2013