Many commonly prescribed drugs linked to depression – NHS Choices

“Could your medications be making you depressed?” asks BBC News, reporting on a new US study looking into possible links between prescription drugs and depression.

Researchers looked at prescriptions issued to 26,192 adults in the US between 2005 and 2014. They found that more than a third had used medicines with depression as a possible side effect. The results showed that around 1 in 7 people had depression among those taking 3 or more such medicines, compared to around 1 in 20 among those not taking any medicines linked to depression.

There are reasons to be cautious about the findings, however. Many medicines have a long list of potential side effects, which doesn’t mean that everyone taking them will get any or all of those side effects. Also, people taking 3 or more medicines are more likely to have a long-term condition than people taking no medicines. Having a long-term health condition is known to increase the risk of depression, regardless of any medication side effects.

If you are feeling down, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor. One of the things they can consider is whether any of the medicines you are taking could be contributing to the problem.

Where did the story come from?

The study was carried out by researchers from the University of Illinois and Columbia University in the US. One of the researchers received funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The study was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal JAMA.

BBC News’ report of the study was broadly accurate and balanced. The Mail Online claimed people were unaware that their medications’ potential side effects included depression, although nothing in the study suggests this is the case.

The Mail Online also misreported the figures, saying at one point that nearly 25% of people studied were taking 3 or more drugs linked to depression and at another point that this figure was 35%, when the true figure was 7.5%.

What kind of research was this?

This was a cross-sectional study of a sample of the US population. Cross-sectional studies are good at establishing links between factors seen in large populations. However, they cannot show that one factor (such as medication use) directly causes another (such as depression), partly because they cannot show which happened first.

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