Antidepressant Use on the Rise

Antidepressants are one of the three most commonly used drug classes in the U.S. and a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlights the growing use of antidepressants in the U.S. Almost 13 percent of people age 12 and over in 2011-2014 used antidepressants in the past month, up from just under 8 percent in 1999-2002. One-quarter of people who took antidepressants had done so for 10 years or more.


Depression is common; an estimated 7 percent of U.S. adults (16 million people) had a major depressive episode in the past year and more than one in three did not receive any treatment. Depression is more common in women than men and more common in adults 40 to 59 years than other age groups. Untreated depression can contribute to difficulties at work, with family and with social activities, and is associated with an increased risk for other conditions, such as heart disease. Depression is typically treated with medication, therapy or a combination of the two.

According to the CDC report, women are almost twice as likely as men to take antidepressants, a trend that has been consistent over many years and consistent across age groups and racial/ethnic groups. (See charts.) As people get older, they are more likely to use antidepressants: 3.4 percent of people aged 12 – 19 used antidepressants, while nearly one in five people (19 percent) aged 60 and older used antidepressants. Non-Hispanic whites were three times more likely to have taken antidepressants than Asians, blacks or Hispanics.

While most antidepressants are used to treat depression, they are also taken to treat other conditions, such as anxiety, the CDC report notes. About half of people with depression in the past year took prescription medication, and about 13 percent saw a health professional but did not take medication, according to a report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.


Oct. 5 is National Depression Screening Day, raising awareness about depression and encouraging people to take action. Screening can be an important first step in helping someone to get help for depression. This year’s theme, Speaking Your Mind, encourages people to talk about their experience. Whether talking to a friend or family member, to a primary care doctor or a mental health professional, sharing your story can help you and help others.

Visit to locate a mental health screening site or take an online screening. After completing a screening, individuals receive referral information to local agencies that offer further evaluation and treatment if needed. You can support the effort with the hashtags #NDSD and #SpeakYourMind.



  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. NCHS Data Brief No. 283: Antidepressant Use Among Persons Aged 12 and Over: United States, 2011–2014. August 2017.
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