Antidepressant use more than doubles among over 65s in two decades

  Elderly couple  Credit: James Hose Jr

The proportion of people aged over 65 on antidepressants has more than doubled in two decades, according to new research led by the University of Cambridge and University of East Anglia (UEA).

Despite this rise in antidepressant use, there has been little change in the number of older people diagnosed with depression.

The findings are based on the Cognitive Function and Ageing Studies, conducted at two time points - between 1991 and 1993, and between 2008 and 2011. 

First author Prof Antony Arthur, from UEA’s School of Health Sciences, said: “Depression is a leading cause of poor quality of life worldwide and we know that older people may be less likely than other age groups to go to their GP with symptoms of depression. Until now, little was known about how the relationship between the prevalence of depression and antidepressant use among older people has changed over time.”

The Cognitive Function and Ageing Studies (CFAS), led by the University of Cambridge, are population based studies of individuals aged 65 with the ability to examine changes in the health needs of older people across generations based on random sampling and diagnostic methods held constant over time.

As part of CFAS, researchers interviewed more than 15,000 over 65s in England and Wales to see whether the prevalence of depression and antidepressant use is changing. They found that the proportion of older people receiving anti-depressant medication more than doubled over two decades – from 4.2 per cent in the early nineties to 10.7 per cent 20 years later. This was despite the estimated prevalence of depression among over 65s falling to 6.8 per cent compared to 7.9 per cent in the 1990s.

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Image:  Elderly couple

Credit: James Hose Jr

Reproduced courtesy of the University of Cambridge




The University of Cambridge is acknowledged as one of the world's leading higher education and research institutions. The University was instrumental in the formation of the Cambridge Network and its Vice- Chancellor, Professor Stephen Toope, is also the President of the Cambridge Network.

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