Association between antidepressant use and reduced risk of intubation or death in hospitalized patients with COVID-19: results from an observational study

Mol Psychiatry. 2021 Sep;26(9):5199-5212. doi: 10.1038/s41380-021-01021-4. Epub 2021 Feb 4.


A prior meta-analysis showed that antidepressant use in major depressive disorder was associated with reduced plasma levels of several pro-inflammatory mediators, which have been associated with severe COVID-19. Recent studies also suggest that several antidepressants may inhibit acid sphingomyelinase activity, which may prevent the infection of epithelial cells with SARS-CoV-2, and that the SSRI fluoxetine may exert in-vitro antiviral effects on SARS-CoV-2. We examined the potential usefulness of antidepressant use in patients hospitalized for COVID-19 in an observational multicenter retrospective cohort study conducted at AP-HP Greater Paris University hospitals. Of 7230 adults hospitalized for COVID-19, 345 patients (4.8%) received an antidepressant within 48 h of hospital admission. The primary endpoint was a composite of intubation or death. We compared this endpoint between patients who received antidepressants and those who did not in time-to-event analyses adjusted for patient characteristics, clinical and biological markers of disease severity, and other psychotropic medications. The primary analysis was a multivariable Cox model with inverse probability weighting. This analysis showed a significant association between antidepressant use and reduced risk of intubation or death (HR, 0.56; 95% CI, 0.43-0.73, p < 0.001). This association remained significant in multiple sensitivity analyses. Exploratory analyses suggest that this association was also significant for SSRI and non-SSRI antidepressants, and for fluoxetine, paroxetine, escitalopram, venlafaxine, and mirtazapine (all p < 0.05). These results suggest that antidepressant use could be associated with lower risk of death or intubation in patients hospitalized for COVID-19. Double-blind controlled randomized clinical trials of antidepressant medications for COVID-19 are needed.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • COVID-19*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major* / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Intubation, Intratracheal
  • Multicenter Studies as Topic
  • Observational Studies as Topic
  • Retrospective Studies
  • SARS-CoV-2


  • Antidepressive Agents