Prevalence and sociodemographic patterns of antidepressant use among women of reproductive age: a prescription database study.

Helen Dolk, Anthony Wemakor, K. Casson

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12 Citations (Scopus)


There has been a steady increase in the prescription of antidepressants in developed countries in recent decades. Antidepressant treatment prevalence and sociodemographic pattern data can inform the review of clinical guidelines for depression treatment. We determined the one-year prevalence and sociodemographic pattern of antidepressant dispensing among women of childbearing age (15-45 years) in Northern Ireland (NI).

A cross-sectional study using individual electronic prescribing data for 2009. Our study population was 268,917 women of childbearing age (15-45 years), with/without prescriptions, registered with the 246 out of 363GP practices in NI with high electronic prescribing data coverage. Socioeconomic deprivation (in quintiles) was measured by an area indicator attached to residential postcode.

The one-year prevalence of redeemed antidepressant prescriptions was 16.3% (95% CI 16.1-16.4). More than two-thirds of antidepressant prescriptions were for SSRIs. Thirty-five per cent of the women who redeemed prescriptions for antidepressants also redeemed prescriptions for psycholeptics within 2 months of the antidepressant prescriptions. Redeemed antidepressant prescription prevalence increased from 4.8% (15-19 years) to 24.6% (40-45 years), from 13.5% (quintile 1, least deprived) to 20.7% (quintile 5, most deprived), and with urbanity of GP practice location.

Only GP practices with high capture of electronic prescribing data were included, which may not be entirely representative of NI. We could not assess the appropriateness of prescribing according to national guidelines.

Antidepressant use is high among women of childbearing age in NI and increases with age and socioeconomic deprivation. This reinforces the need to address the determinants of depression, and assess the appropriateness of treatment policies and practices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-305
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 19 Jun 2014


  • Age
  • Antidepressants
  • Socioeconomic deprivation
  • Women of childbearing age


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