More than 1 in 10 in U.S. take antidepressants
October 19th, 2011
12:01 PM ET

More than 1 in 10 in U.S. take antidepressants

Eleven percent of Americans over age 12 take antidepressants according to a report released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control.  The study, compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics, looked at data from 2005 to 2008.  Among the other key findings:

  • Women are two-and-a-half times more likely to take antidepressants than men.
  • People over 40 are more likely to take antidepressants than younger people.
  • Non-Hispanic whites are more likely to take antidepressants than minorities.

But it was another finding that surprised lead study author, Laura Pratt, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control.  Only one-third of people with severe depression take antidepressants.  "That means many people with severe depression are not getting treated," says Pratt.

Still the rate of antidepressant use has skyrocketed nearly 400% in the United States since the late 1980s when the first SSRI's went on the market.  "There is lots of evidence that the rates of depression have doubled from the late 1990s to the late 2000s," says Dr. Charles Raison, CNNHealth.com's mental health expert and associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona School of Medicine.  Raison says that while the precise reasons for the uptick in depression are unclear,  there is evidence to suggest poor diets and lack of aerobic exercise may play a pivotal role.  "We know obesity is a risk factor for depression," says Raison.  He also points to studies that suggest eating processed food and social isolation can lead to depression.

Experts say this study also shows more people are taking their mental health more seriously and that the stigma surrounding treating diseases like depression is going away.  "If life is like walking on a tightrope, antidepressants are like a net," he says.  "They really work when you are taking them."

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.