How did the use of psychotropic drugs change during the Great Recession in Portugal? A follow-up to the National Mental Health Survey

BMC Psychiatry. 2020 May 11;20(1):215. doi: 10.1186/s12888-020-02620-1.


Background: Research suggests that economic recessions might be associated with a higher use of psychotropic drugs, but literature is scarce and contradictory in identifying the most vulnerable groups. This study aims to assess possible changes in the use of psychotropic drugs due to the economic recession in Portugal, by comparing self-reported consumption in 2008/09 and 2015/16.

Methods: Data from the World Mental Health Survey Initiative Portugal (2008/09) and the National Mental Health Survey Follow-Up (2015/16) were used (n = 911). McNemar's tests were performed to estimate changes in consumption of any psychotropic drug and of antidepressants, anxiolytics, and hypnotics/sedatives. Multiple Generalised Estimating Equations models with interaction effects were used to estimate the population odds of consuming psychotropic drugs according to year, gender and age.

Results: An increase of 6.74% was estimated in the consumption of psychotropic drugs from 2008/09 to 2015/16. Population odds of consuming any psychotropic drugs in 2015/16 were estimated to be 1.5 times higher than in 2008/09 (OR = 1.50;95%CI:1.13-2.01), particularly for hypnotics/sedatives (OR = 1.60;95%CI:1.14-2.25). Women and older individuals presented higher odds of consuming any psychotropic drugs (OR = 2.79;95%CI:2.03-3.84, and OR = 1.80;95%CI:1.28-2.54), after adjusting for year of assessment and education. However, when evaluating the interaction effect of the year with gender and age, men and younger individuals reported higher odds of consuming any psychotropic drugs in 2015/16, when compared to 2008/09 (OR = 1.85;95%CI:1.08-3.17, and OR = 1.95;95%CI:1.32-2.90, respectively).

Conclusions: The findings indicate that the period of economic recession was associated with an increased risk of psychotropic drugs use in Portugal. Consumption of psychotropic drugs remained higher among women and older individuals, but the results suggest that the economic crisis had a disproportionate impact on men and younger individuals. This identification of the most vulnerable population groups is useful to design effective and targeted public health interventions aimed at alleviating the effects of economic recessions.

Keywords: Age; Economic recession; Gender; Psychotropic drugs; Public health.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Economic Recession*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Portugal
  • Psychotropic Drugs* / therapeutic use


  • Psychotropic Drugs