Social inequalities in antidepressant treatment and mortality: a longitudinal register study

Psychol Med. 2007 Mar;37(3):373-82. doi: 10.1017/S0033291706009457. Epub 2006 Nov 23.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / mortality
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cause of Death*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depressive Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder / mortality*
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data*
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Humans
  • Local Government
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Needs Assessment / statistics & numerical data
  • Registries
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors*
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data


  • Antidepressive Agents