Study Suggests Older Adults are Not Taking their Prescribed Antidepressants

A recent report by Reuters suggests that many older adults are abstaining from taking their prescribed antidepressants or continuing to use them as directed by their doctors, that according to a Dutch study examined by the news outlet. If true, the study highlights mental health challenges facing millions of people around the world who may otherwise be willing to continue medication issued by a psychiatrist but balk at treatment from primary care doctors.


The study examined roughly 1,500 people who were at least 60 years old and diagnosed with depression in 2012 by primary care providers finding about 14 percent of patients with depression failed to take their antidepressants within two-weeks. For those patients who did take their medication on time, 15 percent missed taking doses 20 percent of the time and 37 percent overall ceased taking their antidepressants altogether within one year.

The study also found that many patients in the study tended to be more consistent with taking medication when these individuals were already used to taking daily medications for a variety of other chronic health issues. Those patients already on other medications were 11 percent less likely to fail at beginning antidepressant regimens and 13 percent less likely to take these same drugs on an inconsistent basis.


Some of the hesitation to taking antidepressants may be traced to unwanted side effects such as gaining weight and sexual dysfunction as the study found 22 percent of participants who experienced side effects were less likely to take their medication or do so on an inconsistent basis. Additionally, patients with other psychological disorders were 59 percent more likely to take their antidepressants on an inconsistent basis or cease taking them altogether.


While the study did provide useful insights into some of the factors keeping patients from taking their antidepressants, it was not meant to prove whether being treated by a primary care provider might directly impact the chances of patients taking antidepressants as directed. Furthermore, researchers lacked data on why patients didn’t fill prescriptions or didn’t keep taking drugs as directed.


One theory may be that those patients with mild depression actually feel better without taking their medication and the side effects that come with it or that some patients gradually taper off their antidepressants before stopping entirely. Whatever the reasons, the causes will need more study to help those with depression live healthy, productive lives.

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