Antidepressants DO NOT MAKE people happier, claims major study
Antidepressants are no better at making people happier than taking no medication, according to a study published today.
Patients taking the drugs did not have a significantly better quality of life than depressed people who did not take the pills, the analysis found.
Researchers looked at 17.5 million American adults with depression over 10 years, about half on medication and half not.
The results showed a slight improvement in mental health in both groups, whether or not they were on antidepressants.
The researchers from King Saud University, Saudi Arabia, called for longer-term studies of patients on antidepressants to assess their impact on quality of life.
NHS doctors are already moving away from prescribing the drugs, which can lead to a host of side effects.
The health service now advises that patients with mild depression should be offered group therapy sessions before taking pills.
But independent experts said strong conclusions from the study could not be drawn because those who received the drugs were generally more depressed at first, and so it was not a fair comparison.
They insisted that other clinical studies have shown the drugs improve overall quality of life.
Taking antidepressants does not make depressed people happier than not taking medication, according to a study of 17.5 million American adults.
Around 7.3 million adults – 17% of the adult population – took antidepressants in England from 2017 to 2018, the latest data is available.
Some of the most commonly prescribed are citalopram, sertraline, and fluoxetine under the brand names Celexa, Zoloft, and Prozac.
Some 27.6 million over the age of 18 (13.2%) regularly took these drugs in the United States between 2015 and 2018, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The latest study published in the journal PLOS ONEused data from people surveyed and given health checks in another study.
How do antidepressants work?
It is not known exactly how antidepressants work.
They are thought to work by increasing levels of chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters, which are linked to mood and emotions.
Although antidepressants can treat the symptoms of depression, they don’t always treat its causes.
They are therefore usually used in conjunction with therapy to treat more serious depression or other mental health problems.
Research suggests that antidepressants may be helpful for people with moderate or severe depression.
Studies have shown that they are better than placebo for people with these conditions.
They are generally not recommended for mild depression unless other treatments such as therapy have not helped.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists estimates that 50-65% of people treated with an antidepressant for depression will see improvement, compared with 25-30% of those taking a placebo.
These included all adults in the country who had been diagnosed with depression and were not institutionalized.
They had an average age of 48 years and were mostly women (67.9%).
More than half took antidepressants, while 43% were not on medication but still had a clinical diagnosis.
The researchers checked their health-related quality of life (HRQoL) scores when they were first identified by the database and two years later.
The measure is used by the CDC as an indicator of quality of life, both mentally and physically, and is determined by patients answering survey questions about their well-being.
It is divided into two areas: mental health and physical health. Healthy people typically score around 90 on the scale.
Mental health scores increased in both groups over the two years, while physical scores decreased.
For those taking the drug, mental health scores increased by 2.9%, from an average of 40.32 to 41.50. Their physical health scores dropped by 1.5%, from 42.5 to 41.85.
Meanwhile, those not receiving antidepressants saw their mental health scores increase by 2.2%, from 42.99 to 43.92. Their physical scores fell from 43.86 to 43.31 (1.3%).
Dr Omar Almohammed, a clinical pharmacist at Saudi University, said there was no statistical difference between those who took the drug and those who did not.
This suggests that the use of antidepressants does not significantly improve quality of life over time, they claimed.
But independent experts criticized the study for not taking into account the difference in levels of depression between the two groups.
Dr Gemma Lewis, a psychiatrist at University College London, said: “In this study, people who received antidepressants had a lower quality of life and were likely to have been more severely depressed than those who did not. haven’t received any.”
“This type of bias is difficult to eliminate in a naturalistic study such as this, which does not involve experimental design.
“Clinical trials with experimental designs have shown that antidepressants improve mental health-related quality of life.”
Professor Eduard Vieta, a psychiatrist at the University of Barcelona, said: ‘The main limitation of this article is that, as is often the case with this type of study, the confounder by indication.
“The inability to control for the severity of depression between the two different groups is a crucial flaw and therefore we cannot derive much from these data.”