Association between depression and antibiotic use: analysis of population-based National Health Insurance claims data

BMC Psychiatry. 2021 Oct 28;21(1):536. doi: 10.1186/s12888-021-03550-2.


Background: Frequent exposure to antibiotic treatments may increase the risk of antibiotic resistance, which may threaten the effectiveness of future antibiotic treatments. Thus, it is important to identify the preventable risks in terms of antibiotic use. This study assessed the association between major depressive disorder (MDD) and antibiotic use by comparing the likelihood and extent of antibiotic use between patients with and without MDD.

Methods: This retrospective cross-sectional study utilized the National Patients Sample data from the 2017 Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service. We analyzed 16,950 patients with MDD, defined as those with at least two claims records stating a primary diagnosis of MDD (International Classification of Diseases, 10th revision codes F32-33) and 67,800 patients without MDD (1:4 propensity-score matched control group). Antibiotic use was compared between the patients with and without MDD based on three variables: the presence of antibiotic prescriptions, total prescription days of antibiotics per year, and total medication costs of antibiotics per year.

Results: The adjusted odds ratio obtained by multivariate regression analysis for the presence of prescription of antibiotics was 1.31 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.25-1.36). In the negative binomial model, the number of prescription days was 1.25 times (95% CI: 1.23-1.28) higher in patients with MDD than in those without MDD. Generalized linear model analysis showed a 1.39-fold (95% CI: 1.36-1.43) higher cost of antibiotic prescription in patients with MDD than in those without MDD.

Conclusions: Our results suggest a potential association between MDD and the prescription of antibiotics, implying that patients with MDD are relatively vulnerable to infections. It is important to prevent as well as closely monitor the occurrence of infections when managing patients with MDD.

Keywords: Antibiotics; Infectious disease; Major depressive disorder.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression
  • Depressive Disorder, Major* / complications
  • Depressive Disorder, Major* / drug therapy
  • Depressive Disorder, Major* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • National Health Programs
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents