Severe Depression Under-Treated

Depressive symptoms not identified

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) About 11 percent of Americans aged 12 and over take antidepressant medications. Yet only about one-third of severely depressed people are on such medication.

The newest data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys was released, and the numbers on mental health treatment are troubling. Not only are just one in three Americans with severe depressive disorder on any sort of medication for it, but less than one-third of those on an antidepressant have seen a mental health professional in the past year.

"See a mental health professional if you are experiencing depression."

Some people are more likely to get help than others. The data showed that females are two and a half times more likely than males to take antidepressant medication, but among those on the drugs, males are more likely than females to have seen a mental health professional in the past year.

Non-Hispanic whites are more likely to do so than non-Hispanic blacks or Mexican-Americans. There was no difference of usage between income groups.

Antidepressants are the third most common prescription drug in the United States between 2005 and 2008, and the most frequently used by Americans aged 18 to 44.

The rate of antidepressant use in the U.S. increased nearly 400 percent in the period from 1988-1994 and 2005-2008; yet it appears that many people who need both the medication and mental health treatment are not receiving them.

Fourteen percent of Americans who do take antidepressants have taken them for 10 years or longer, and the use of such medications increases as the rise in severity of symptoms increases.

Although the majority of antidepressant drugs are taken to treat depression, they can also be used to treat other problems such as anxiety disorders.

The data was based on analysis of data from interviews and information of 13,897 people aged 12 and over. The research was led by Laura A. Pratt of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics, Office of Analysis and Epidemiology.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 24, 2011
Last Updated:
October 26, 2011