Clinical factors influencing the prescription of antidepressants and benzodiazepines: results from the European study of the epidemiology of mental disorders (ESEMeD)

J Affect Disord. 2008 Sep;110(1-2):84-93. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2008.01.011. Epub 2008 Mar 10.


Objective: To examine factors associated with the use of antidepressants (AD) and benzodiazepines (BZD) in 6 European countries.

Methods: A cross-sectional, population-based study was conducted in: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain. 21,425 non-institutionalized individuals aged 18 years and over were interviewed using the third version of the Composite International Interview (CIDI-3.0). Respondents were asked about AD and BZD use, and whether they consulted formal health services for emotional problems in the previous year. Sociodemographic variables, presence of mood/anxiety disorders and of painful physical symptoms were collected.

Results: 34.38% and 9.17% of the sample reported the use of AD and BZD respectively in the previous 12 months. Only 29.95% of subjects with a 12-month prevalence of major depressive episode (MDE) had been taking antidepressants. After controlling for several clinical and non-clinical factors, help seeking for emotional problems was the most important independent predictor for the use of AD or BZD (OR: 13.58 and 5.17, respectively). Higher age was the second important predictor (OR: 6.52 and 4.86, respectively). A 12-month or lifetime prevalence of MDE or an anxiety disorder were also predictors for AD or BZD use (OR for MDE: 5.00 and 2.82, OR for anxiety disorders: 2.13 and 1.85). Finally, the presence of painful physical symptoms also predicted the use of AD and BZD, while female gender, lower education and higher age predicted only the use of BZD.

Conclusion: Less than one third of subjects with a 12-month prevalence of MDE had been taking antidepressants. But seeking help for emotional problems was a more important predictor of the use of ADs or BZDs than a formal (DSM-IV) psychiatric diagnosis, suggesting that usage of ADs is not always according to the licensed DSM-IV indication.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affective Symptoms / drug therapy
  • Affective Symptoms / epidemiology
  • Aged
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders / drug therapy
  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology
  • Benzodiazepines / therapeutic use*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / drug therapy
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / epidemiology
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data
  • Drug Utilization
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Prevalence
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales / statistics & numerical data


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Benzodiazepines