Long-Term and Short-Term Antidepressant Use in General Practice: Data from a Large Cohort in the Netherlands

Psychother Psychosom. 2017;86(6):362-369. doi: 10.1159/000480456. Epub 2017 Nov 3.


Background: Antidepressant use is highly prevalent. Research has mainly focused on efficacy during short periods of use for depression and anxiety. There is a relative paucity of data regarding the frequency of long-term use.

Methods: To determine the prevalence and possible increase of long-term use of antidepressants over recent years, we analyzed routine general practice care data in a large cohort of patients (n = 156,620) in and around Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Additionally, predictors of long-term use were studied.

Results: Prevalence of long-term use of antidepressants is substantial, and such use appears to be increasing: 30.3% of use was long-term over the period 1995-2005 compared to 43.7% for the period 2005-2015. Higher age, a registered diagnosis of anxiety or depression, and the use of SSRIs or SNRIs were associated with long-term use in multivariate analysis. In addition, specific antidepressants were differentially associated with long-term use.

Conclusions: Long-term antidepressant use is substantial and appears to be on the rise. Awareness of this phenomenon should be increased, such use should be prevented when possible, and reasons for long-term use need to be examined.

Keywords: Antidepressant medication; Anxiety; Depressive disorder; Disease management; Long-term care.

MeSH terms

  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Anxiety Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Depressive Disorder / drug therapy*
  • General Practice* / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Long-Term Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Netherlands
  • Prescription Drugs / therapeutic use*


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Prescription Drugs