Antidepressants show no ability to improve long-term quality of life

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Antidepressants do not display an ability to better quality of life in the long run, according to a new study. Researchers in Saudi Arabia say they do not improve the long-term mental or physical health of people with depression.

Earlier research has shown the tablets are effective at specifically treating depression disorder, but the effect of the pills on people’s wider health has been unclear. For the study, researchers used data from the 2005-2015 United States’ Medical Expenditures Panel Survey, a large study that tracks the health services that Americans use.

During the study period, doctors diagnosed 17.4 million adults with depression on average each year, following up with these individuals for two years. Just over half of them (57.6%) took antidepressants.

That study found antidepressants did indeed lead to better mental well-being to some degree. However, the researchers found the improvement in both mental and physical health among people who took the pills was not significantly greater than for those who did not.

Could depression severity play a role?

The research team did not look at subtypes or differing levels of severity of depression among the participants, which could explain the results. Study authors add that patients should still take the pills if a doctor prescribes them until a clearer picture emerges.

The researchers now want to investigate how effective non-pharmacological ways of treating depression are when patients combine them with antidepressants.

“Despite the literature demonstrating the efficacy of antidepressant medications for treatment of depression disorder, these medications’ effect on patients’ overall wellbeing and health-related quality of life remains controversial,” study author Dr. Omar Almohammed says, according to a statement from SWNS. “Using antidepressant medications does not continue to improve patients’ health-related quality of life over time.”

“Future studies should not only focus on the short-term effect of pharmacotherapy, they should investigate the long-term impact of pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions on these patients’ health-related quality of life,” the researcher continues.

“Although we still need our patients with depression to continue using their antidepressant medications, long-term studies evaluating the actual impact for pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions on these patients’ quality of life are needed.”

The findings appear in the journal PLOS One.

South West News Service writer Gwyn Wright contributed to this report.

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