A prescription for unemployment? Recessions and the demand for mental health drugs

Health Econ. 2014 Nov;23(11):1301-25. doi: 10.1002/hec.2983. Epub 2013 Aug 19.


We estimate the relationship between mental health drug prescriptions and the level of labor market activity in the USA. Based on monthly data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey of physicians and aggregated by US census regions, we find that the number of mental health drug prescriptions (those aimed at alleviating depression and anxiety) rises by about 10% when employment falls by 1% and when unemployment rises by 100 basis points, but only for patients in the Northeast region. This paper is one of the first to look at compensatory health behavior in response to the business cycle.

Keywords: anti-anxiety; anti-depressants; depression; drug prescriptions; regional employment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Anxiety / drug therapy*
  • Depression / drug therapy*
  • Economic Recession*
  • Health Services Needs and Demand*
  • Humans
  • Regression Analysis
  • Unemployment / psychology*
  • United States


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Antidepressive Agents