Melatonin use among children, adolescents, and young adults: a Danish nationwide drug utilization study

Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2023 Oct;32(10):2021-2029. doi: 10.1007/s00787-022-02035-1. Epub 2022 Jul 6.


We aimed to provide a detailed description of the use of melatonin in Danish children, adolescents, and young adults during 2012-2019. We identified melatonin users 0-24 years of age (n = 43,652; median age 16 years) via the Danish nationwide health registers. Melatonin is a prescription drug in Denmark. The incidence of melatonin use increased from 2.4 to 3.9/1000 person-years during 2012 to 2019. Among 6,557 incident users in 2019, 53% filled only a single prescription within the first 6 months. Long-term use was most common among the younger age groups, with 17% of 5-9-year-olds and 14% of 10-13-year-olds being in continued treatment (no treatment breaks) 12 months after their first melatonin prescription. Disregarding treatment breaks, 3 in 10 were using melatonin 12 months after their first melatonin prescription and this proportion was also highest among 5-9-year-olds (63%) and 10-13-year-olds (51%). Psychopathology was common among melatonin users with 75% registered with either a psychiatric disorder diagnosis (54%), a filled prescription for another psychotropic (58%), or a contact to a private practice psychiatrist (15%) within ± 12 months of treatment initiation. General practitioners authorized melatonin prescriptions to almost half of all new users (48%), while psychiatric specialists authorized 37% of first prescriptions. In conclusion, the incidence of melatonin use increased in Denmark from 2012 to 2019. A substantial proportion of users had concurrent psychopathology most likely explaining their use of melatonin. Long-term melatonin use was more common among the youngest age groups, which should be a focus of interest due to limited safety data.

Keywords: Adolescent; Child; Drug utilization study; Melatonin; Register-based cohort study.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Drug Prescriptions
  • Drug Utilization
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Melatonin* / therapeutic use
  • Prescription Drugs*
  • Registries
  • Young Adult


  • Melatonin
  • Prescription Drugs