Countries where antidepressants are most commonly prescribed around the world REVEALED

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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  • Iceland has the highest number of antidepressant prescriptions in the world 
  • Meanwhile, South Korea took the bottom spot due to lack of availability 
  • READ MORE: SSRI prescriptions among kids 12-17 soared 64% during pandemic

America is often labeled the most depressed or drugged-up nation, but that may have been overblown.

Figures of global antidepressant use per capita suggests that Iceland has the largest share of citizens on the drugs.

Figures compiled by Our World in Data analyzed the number of prescriptions dolled out in 22 countries, broken down as a rate per 1,000 people.

Using data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), it showed Iceland topped the list, with 161.1 per 1,000 people, the equivalent of one in six people.

Iceland had the highest rate of antidepressant prescriptions, with 161 per 1,000 residents. Meanwhile, South Korea came in last place with 27 per 1,000

The two main classes of antidepressants are tricyclic antidepressants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs tend to be more common

The two main classes of antidepressants are tricyclic antidepressants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs tend to be more common

The country – which suffers notoriously long, dark winters – has fewer than 400,000 residents. 

Portugal and Canada followed closely behind, with 139 and 130 scripts per 1,000, respectively. 

The US has a rate of 110 per every 1,000 people , putting it in fifth place.

The UK followed closely behind in seventh place, with 108 prescriptions per 1,000 Brits. 

Meanwhile, South Korea took the bottom spot, with 27 prescriptions per 1,000 residents, where depression and therapy have largely been considered taboo.  

The findings come as one in three Americans report suffering from clinical depression at some point, and one in five currently have the disorder.  

The two main classes of antidepressants are tricyclic antidepressants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

Tricyclic antidepressants are an older class of drug that are prescribed less often due to more intense side effects, including insomnia, bed-wetting, and chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia. 

These work by increasing levels of mood-boosting hormones norepinephrine and serotonin. 

Some examples of tricyclics approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) include amitriptyline (Elavil), nortriptyline (Pamelor), and protriptyline (Vivactil).

SSRIs are more common and include drugs like citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), and sertraline (Zoloft). 

These work by blocking serotonin from being reabsorbed by neurons. 

The US was not included in OECD's rankings, though CDC estimates put it in fifth place

The US was not included in OECD’s rankings, though CDC estimates put it in fifth place

The percentage of adults who said they have been diagnosed with depression during their life

The percentage of adults who said they have been diagnosed with depression during their life

Iceland has the highest rate of antidepressant use, OECD found, with 161.1 scripts per 1,000 people. 

However, experts believe it’s not due to the dark, cold winters and early sunsets – it’s due to how cheap drugs are.

As of 2023, the World Happiness Report ranked Iceland as the third-happiest country in the world behind Finland and Denmark.

The report found that it had the highest feeling of social support and the second-highest generosity score. 

Additionally, Al Jazeera estimates that drug prices in Iceland are seven times cheaper than therapy, which could explain why so many residents take them.  

Though the US was not included in OECD’s ranking, the CDC estimates that 110 of every 1,000 Americans are on antidepressants, which is roughly 11 percent. 

The agency has also noted that these more common in women, 18 percent of whom have taken them in the past 30 days compared to eight percent of men. 

In a report released last year, the CDC found that up to one third of Americans suffer from depression, with counties in West Virginia ranking the highest. 

Researchers believe depression is higher in counties in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Washington due to the prevalence of other chronic diseases, such as diabetes, and other social factors, including poverty. 

West Virginia and Kentucky have the highest rates of obesity in the country. West Virginia is also one of the nation’s poorest states.

‘There was considerable geographic variation in the prevalence of depression, with the highest state and county estimates of depression observed along the Appalachian and southern Mississippi Valley regions,’ researchers wrote in the report.

Additionally, a CDC report released last month found that 37.9million Americans were living alone in 2022, up 4.8million — 15 percent — from the numbers in 2012.

It also found that the proportion of the adult population living in single-person households had doubled since the 1960s — from 13 percent to more than 29 percent. 

The report warned there was an ‘increased risk of adverse mental health’ for those living alone — adding that people living alone were 64 percent more likely to have symptoms of depression than those who live with others.

Researchers also said these rates may be driving the sense of despair and high rates of mental health problems across the US.

The UK came in two spots below the US, with 108 prescriptions per 1,000 people. 

NHS data suggests that eight million patients across England are prescribed these drugs for issues like depression and anxiety. 

However, a 2023 agency report also notes that one in four of them – some two million – have taken the medications for at least five years. 

And England also dished out about 1 million antidepressant prescriptions for teens in 2022, NHS data shows. 

South Korea came in at the bottom of the list with 27 prescriptions per 1,000 residents.

Researchers in a European Journal of Public Health study attributed this low rate to the drugs not being available in all areas of the country.

Another study found that South Koreans are more likely to see depression as a sign of weakness.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

SOURCE

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