Consumption of psychotropic drugs among adults who were in societal care during their childhood-A Swedish national cohort study

Nord J Psychiatry. 2014 Nov;68(8):611-9. doi: 10.3109/08039488.2014.902501. Epub 2014 Apr 22.


Background: Previous studies have demonstrated greatly increased risks of severe psychiatric morbidity for former child welfare clients. We investigated psychotropic medication in this population as a proxy indicator of less severe mental health problems.

Methods: This register-based cohort study comprises the Swedish birth cohorts between 1973 and 1981, 765,038, including 16,986 former children from societal care and 1296 national adoptees. Estimates of risk of retrieval of prescribed psychotropic medications during 2009 were calculated in four categories (any such drug, neuroleptics, antidepressants and anxiolytics/hypnotics) as hazard ratios (HRs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) using Cox regression analysis, adjusting for birth parental background including psychiatric morbidity.

Results: 17-25% of men and 25-32% of the women with childhood experiences of societal care retrieved at least one prescription of a psychotropic drug, equivalent to age-adjusted HRs of between 2.1 and 3.3, compared with the general population. Adjusting the analysis for birth parental confounders attenuated risks to between 1.5 and 2.7, depending on subgroup and sex. Men-especially those that entered care settings during their teens-tended to have higher risks of all outcomes. Adjusted HRs for national adoptees were similar to former children in care.

Conclusions: Former residents of societal care are a high-risk group for mental health problems well into mature adult age, demonstrating the need for systematic screening and implementation of effective prevention/treatment during time in care.

Keywords: Cohort study; Foster care; Longitudinal; Psychotropic drugs; Residential care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Institutionalized / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Psychotropic Drugs / therapeutic use*
  • Registries / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sweden / epidemiology


  • Psychotropic Drugs