Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences

Original Articles

The relationship between socio-economic status and antidepressant prescription: a longitudinal survey and register study of young adults

T. von Soesta1a2 c1, J. G. Bramnessa3a4, W. Pedersena5a6 and L. Wichstrøma7

a1 Norwegian Social Research (NOVA), Oslo, Norway

a2 Department of Children and Adolescent Mental Health, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway

a3 Department of Pharmacoepidemiology, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway

a4 Norwegian Centre for Addiction Research (SERAF), University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway

a5 Department of Sociology and Human Geography, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway

a6 Norwegian Institute for Alcohol and Drug Research (SIRUS), Oslo, Norway

a7 Department of Psychology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway

Abstract

Aims. The current study examines the relationship between socio-economic status (SES) and antidepressant prescription among young adults and investigates mechanisms that could explain such a potential social gradient.

Methods. Longitudinal survey data from a population-based Norwegian sample (N = 2606) was collected in four waves over a 13-year period. The data were linked to register data on antidepressant prescription and several indicators of SES (education, income, social or unemployment benefits, disability or rehabilitation benefits and parents' education).

Results. Apart from parents' education, all indicators of low SES were related to higher rates of antidepressant prescription. A part of the relationship between SES and antidepressant prescription was due to low SES being related to higher levels of anxiety and depression. Moreover, low SES was related to more frequent use of mental health services, which again was related to higher rates of antidepressant prescription. Both contact with physicians and other mental healthcare professionals accounted for some of the relationship between SES and antidepressant prescription.

Conclusions. The study provides information about mechanisms involved in the relationship between low SES and antidepressant prescription. More research is needed about whether a comparable social gradient in antidepressant prescription is also to be found outside the Nordic countries.

(Received August 17 2011)

(Revised October 14 2011)

(Accepted October 16 2011)

(Online publication November 17 2011)

Correspondence

c1 Address for correspondence: Tilmann von Soest, Norwegian Social Research (NOVA), P.O. Box 3223, Oslo, Norway. (Email: tvs@nova.no)