Wednesday, November 16, 2011

US Mental Health Drug Usage

A pretty interesting report from Medco just came out.  It will probably surprise few of my readers to learn that a lot more Americans were on mental health drugs in 2010 than in 2001.  The details are above with around a fifth of all Americans now using pharmaceutical assistance to get by.  The point where we all need drugs to cope still seems to be a number of decades off, however.

This graph of antidepressant usage by age was interesting:

In particular it struck me that these levels could be high enough to have a noticeable impact on the famous "happiness smile":

Source.  That is the phenomenon that if you ask people how happy they are things tend to get worse as they get older into their forties and then start getting better again.  How much of this is just due to the fraction of the population that finally got their meds right?  (A search of that last linked paper for "antidepressant" or "medication" turns up nothing).


jhm said...

I wonder if some of this increase is connected with the rise of the influence of big pharma on diagnostics. See

Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sickness
by Christopher Lane

Exhausted_Auk said...

I don't think the happiness phenomenon has anything to do with meds. I believe it is simply due to the normal stages of life. Happiness declines into the 40's as finances and free time become steadily more constrained by the demands of growing children. Then, starting at 50 or so, the children finally leave home, the mortgage gets paid off, and things start to improve again.

As to why happiness continues to improve into old age, it has been documented that misery and depression has an effect on life expectancy. So it is quite possible that the unhappiest people are slowly weeded out, leaving only the happiest as the eventual survivors.

JS123 said...

Does anyone have a link to an article explaining why the difference is so large between men and women?

noiseformind said...


Women have to deal with men, I think that says it all :)

rjs said...

if it was adaptive for our neurochemical composition to be so altered, dont you think we would have evolved in that manner?

Nick said...

We're operating in a completely novel environment, and living longer (post-menopause, too!). It's certainly an interesting hypothesis, esp. considering all of the wonderful (scary) new research on the effects of stress on health and longevity.