Antidepressant use in the UK

Antidepressant use in the UK

  • Half (48%) of women currently on antidepressants have been on them for 5 years or more
  • 1 in 4 (24%) women currently on antidepressants have been on them for 10 years or more
  • 1 in 4 (24%) women currently on antidepressants have waited a year or more for a review

The research also reveals many women are hiding the problem and keeping it a secret from their friends, family and even partners:

  • 1 in 5 (18%) women kept it a secret from their family
  • 14% of women kept it a secret from close friends
  • 10% of women kept it a secret from their partner

Overall, 28% of UK adults say they have taken antidepressants at some point (either currently or in the past). 33% of women have, or are, taking antidepressants, this compares to 23% of men.

  • More women than men say they are currently taking antidepressants – 13% of women compared to 10% of men.
  • In line with the above, more women (20%) than men (13%) have taken antidepressants in the past (but are no longer taking them).

In terms of the length of time spent taking antidepressants…

Among current users of antidepressants:

  • 72% have been on them for 2 years or more. This breaks down to 73% of current male users, vs. 71% of female users.
  • 46% have been on them for 5 years or more. This breaks down to 44% of current male users vs. 48% of female users.

Among past users of antidepressants:

  • 32% say the longest amount of time they took them for was 2 years or more (33% of past male users vs. 30% of past female users), and 19% say the longest period was 5 or more years (18% m, vs. 19% f).

Those who are currently taking antidepressants were asked how long it had been since their last treatment review:

  • 5% had never had a treatment review (2% of males vs. 7% of females)
  • 32% said it had been 6 months or more since their last review
  • 14% said it had been a year or more (16% of females vs. 11% of males)
  • And 6% said it had been 2 years or more (7% of females vs. 5% of males)

Those on antidepressants were also asked the longest time they had waited between reviews:

  • 59% had waited 6 months or more (62% of males vs. 55% of females)
  • 30% had waited a year or more (39% of males vs. 24% of females)
  • And 8% had waited 2 years or more (5% of males vs. 11% of females)

All of those who had taken antidepressants (either now or in the past) were asked if they had been offered any alternatives to drug treatment…

At the time they were prescribed antidepressants:

  • Overall, 46% (of past and present antidepressant users) were offered an alternative, the most common being counselling (34%).
  • However, males (52%) were more likely to be offered an alternative than females (43%).
  • Among current users in particular, 54% were offered an alternative at the time of prescription. Again, more males (61%) than females (49%) were offered alternative treatments.

At any of their treatment reviews:

  • Overall 41% of past and present antidepressant users were offered an alternative at a treatment review – again most often counselling (26%). Males are more likely to have been offered alternative treatments at reviews than females (43% vs. 39%).
  • Among current users, 39% have been offered an alternative to antidepressants at a treatment review (41% of current male users vs. 37% of current female users).

At their most recent review:

  • 21% of current users of antidepressants were offered an alternative treatment at their last review, with males more likely than females to have received the offer of alternative treatment (27% vs. 16%).

Finally, past and present antidepressant users were asked if they had kept taking antidepressants a secret from:

Their family…

  • Among current users, 17% are keeping it secret from their family. Males are more likely than females to be keeping it secret due to shame or embarrassment (11% vs. 7% of females)

Their boss…

  • Among current antidepressant users with a boss, 37% are keeping it secret from them.

Their partner…

  • 10% of current users with a partner are keeping their antidepressant use secret from them. This is higher among males than females (14% vs. 7%).

A close friend…

  • 15% of current antidepressant users are hiding it from a close friend, with males again more likely to be doing so (18% vs. 14%).

Platform 51 commissioned Opinium Research LLP to carry out a nationally representative, survey of more than 2,000 UK adults aged 18+ from 10th to 13th June 2011.

Interview Method and Sample

This survey is conducted online by CAWI (computer aided web interviewing), using Opinium’s online research panel of circa 25,000 individuals. This research is run from a representative sample of UK adults (aged 18+ in England, Scotland and Wales). The sample is scientifically defined from pre-collected registration data containing gender, age (18-34, 35-54, and 55+), region (North East, North West, Yorkshire and Humberside, East Midlands, West Midlands, East of England, London, South East, South West, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland), working status and social grade to match the latest published ONS figures.

Opinium also takes into account differential response rates from the different demographic groups, to ensure the sample is representative.