Background: Despite an increased prevalence of depression among people of low socio-economic position, it remains unclear whether their treatment with antidepressants appropriately matches their increased need compared with people from more affluent backgrounds. This study examined socio-economic differences in antidepressant prescriptions and mortality related to depressive disorders.
Method: A longitudinal register study of 17947 male and 47458 female local government employees with linked information on socio-economic indicators (education and occupational status) and data on antidepressant use and mortality associated with depressive disorder (suicide, alcohol-related deaths) during the years 1994 to 2000.
Results: In men, antidepressant treatment was less common among low educational groups than among high educational groups (OR 0.87, 95% CI 0.76-0.99) and a corresponding difference was seen between occupational statuses (OR for manual v. upper non-manual 0.72, 95% CI 0.62-0.84). In women, socio-economic position was not associated with antidepressant use. However, both among the men and women, employees with low socio-economic position had increased risk for mental-health-related mortality, as indicated by suicides, deaths from alcohol-related causes, and all-cause mortality.
Conclusions: These data suggest a mismatch in the treatment of depression relative to apparent clinical need, with the lowest levels of treatment concentrated in the lower socio-economic groups, despite evidence of their increased prevalence of depression and suicide.