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Carol 2

The potential adverse effects of using antidepressants over a long period of time have been examined by Carol Coupland and researchers at the Universities of Nottingham and Southampton and published in BMC Medicine this month, Antidepressant use and risk of adverse outcomes in people aged 20 – 64 years: cohort study using a primary care database.

Antidepressants are one of the most commonly prescribed medications in young and middle-aged adults. Recent research publishing in The Lancet has shown that they are more effective than placebo in people with severe depression when taken for around eight weeks. In reality people often take them form many months or even years. The relatively small beneficial effects of antidepressants reported in The Lancet study could be outweighed by harmful effects, but the study did not consider the risks of serious adverse effects that could occure when antidepressants are taken for longer periods of time.

The large study examined nearly a quarter million people aged between 20 and 64 from across the UK, who had been diagnosed with depression. Around 90% of people in the study had been prescribed antidepressants and taken them for an average of seven months, although 1 in 20 people had taken them for at least five years.

Publication: Antidepressant use and risk of adverse outcomes in people aged 20 – 64 years: cohort study using a primary care database. Carol Coupland, Trevor Hill, Richard Morriss, Michael Moore, Antony Arthur and Julia Hippisley-Cox