Summary: Overall, people who used antidepressants to manage depression long-term did not have a better quality of physical or mental health than those with depression who did not use prescription medication to manage their symptoms.
Over time, using antidepressants is not associated with significantly better health-related quality of life, compared to people with depression who do not take the drugs.
These are the findings of a new study published this week in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Omar Almohammed of King Saud University, Saudi Arabia, and colleagues.
It is generally well known that depression disorder has a significant impact on the health-related quality of life (HRQoL) of patients. While studies have shown the efficacy of antidepressant medications for treatment of depression disorder, these medications’ effect on patients’ overall well-being and HRQoL remains controversial.
In the new study, the researchers used data from the 2005-2015 United States’ Medical Expenditures Panel Survey (MEPS), a large longitudinal study that tracks the health services that Americans use. Any person with a diagnosis of depression disorder was identified in the MEPS files.
Over the duration of the study, on average there were 17.47 million adult patients diagnosed with depression each year with two years of follow-up, and 57.6% of these received treatment with antidepressant medications.
Use of antidepressants was associated with some improvement on the mental component of SF-12—the survey tracking health-related quality of life.
However, when this positive change was compared to the change in group of people who were diagnosed with depressive disorder but did not take antidepressants, there was no statistically significant association of antidepressants with either the physical (p=0.9595) or mental (p=0.6405) component of SF-12.
In other words, the change in quality of life seen among those on antidepressants over two years was not significantly different from that seen among those not taking the drugs.
The study was not able to separately analyze any subtypes or varying severities of depression. The authors say that future studies should investigate the use of non-pharmacological depression interventions used in combination with antidepressants.
The authors add: “Although we still need our patients with depression to continue using their antidepressant medications, long-term studies evaluating the actual impact for pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions on these patients’ quality of life is needed.
“With that being said, the role of cognitive and behavioral interventions on the long term-management of depression needs to be further evaluated in an efforts to improve the ultimate goal of care for these patients; improving their overall quality of life.”
About this depression and psychopharmacology research news
Original Research: Open access.
“Antidepressants and health-related quality of life (HRQoL) for patients with depression: Analysis of the medical expenditure panel survey from the United States” by Omar Almohammed et al. PLOS ONE
Antidepressants and health-related quality of life (HRQoL) for patients with depression: Analysis of the medical expenditure panel survey from the United States
Despite the empirical literature demonstrating the efficacy of antidepressant medications for treatment of depression disorder, these medications’ effect on patients’ overall well-being and health-related quality of life (HRQoL) remains controversial. This study investigates the effect of antidepressant medication use on patient-reported HRQoL for patients who have depression.
A comparative cohort, secondary database analysis was conducted using data from the United States’ Medical Expenditures Panel Survey for patients who had depression. HRQoL was measured using the SF-12 and reported as physical and mental component summaries (PCS and MCS). A cohort of patients that used antidepressant medications were compared to a cohort of patients that did not. Univariate and multivariate difference-in-differences (D-I-D) analyses were used to assess the significance of the mean difference of change on the PCS and MCS from baseline to follow-up.
On average, 17.5 million adults were diagnosed with depression disorder each year during the period 2005–2016. The majority were female (67.9%), a larger proportion of whom received antidepressant medications (60.5% vs. 51.5% of males). Although use of antidepressants was associated with some improvement on the MCS, D-I-D univariate analysis revealed no significant difference between the two cohorts in PCS (–0.35 vs. –0.34, p = 0.9595) or MCS (1.28 vs. 1.13, p = 0.6405). The multivariate D-I-D analyses ensured the robustness of these results.
The real-world effect of using antidepressant medications does not continue to improve patients’ HRQoL over time. Future studies should not only focus on the short-term effect of pharmacotherapy, it should rather investigate the long-term impact of pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions on these patients’ HRQoL.