A new study suggests that antidepressant treatment may not improve the overall well-being of people with depression. Photo: pasja1000/Pixabay
A study published Wednesday found that people who used medications designed to treat depression for long periods of time did not see improvements in their overall physical and mental health compared to those who avoided antidepressants.
The data, published Wednesday by PLOS One, showed that people with depression treated with prescription drugs scored similarly to those who did not use the drugs on a short-form health survey, both at the start of the study and two years later.
Among the more than 10 million people treated with antidepressants at the start of the study, the average score was 41 for the mental portion and 44 for the physical portion, the researchers said.
After two years of treatment, their average scores were 42 and 43, respectively, the researchers said.
For the 7.5 million people with depression in the study who were not treated with prescription drugs, the average scores for the mental and physical components were 43 and 46, the data showed.
After two years, they scored 45 on both components, the researchers said.
“We found that changes in health-related quality of life were comparable or similar between patients using antidepressants and those not using antidepressants,” study co-author Omar A. Almohamd told Hopewell International in an email.
“However, we are not saying that [these drugs] are not helpful at all – [this measure] is just one of many measures designed to assess health outcomes,” said Almohammed, an assistant professor of clinical pharmacy at King Saud University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that about 21 million adults in the United States have had at least one episode of major depression, or depressive disorder, in their lives.
According to the institute, depression is a mood disorder that causes feelings of sadness that last for two weeks or more and affects a person’s ability to manage daily activities.
For the study, Almohammed and his colleagues reviewed data from the Short Form Health Survey scores of 17.5 million adults in the U.S. who were diagnosed with depression and treated for it between 2005 and 2015.
The short-form health survey components assessing mental health and physical health separately, as well as health-related quality of life, were scored on a scale of 0 to 100, the researchers said.
On average, adults in the United States typically score about 50 points on each section, the researchers said.
More than 10 million were treated with prescription antidepressants, while the rest received other care, including counseling.
Based on the average scores of participants in both groups, those taking antidepressants saw no significant difference in quality-of-life changes over two years from those who did not take medication, the researchers said.
However, the researchers cautioned people with depression not to stop taking their medications because of these findings, they said.
“We still recommend that they continue using their antidepressants, but they may want to ask their health care provider to provide them with other [options],” Almohammed said.
“These patients may have some improvement in other clinical outcome indicators” as a result of the prescription drug treatment, he said.