Objective: This study was done in an effort to determine whether there was a change over the past decade in the number and proportion of patients prescribed antidepressants by psychiatrists in private practice.
Method: The authors analyzed data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey for the years 1980, 1985, and 1989, focusing on visits by adults over the age of 18 years to physicians specializing in psychiatry and psychiatric subspecialties.
Results: The number of visits that included prescribing an antidepressant medication grew from approximately 2.5 million in 1980 to 4.7 million in 1989, or from 17.9% to 30.4% of all office-based psychiatric visits. Fluoxetine, which first became available in 1988, accounted for 29.6% of the prescriptions for antidepressants in 1989. Increases in prescriptions for antidepressants were particularly evident for male patients, young adult patients, and patients with neurotic disorders.
Conclusions: There was an increase in the 1980s in the use of antidepressants in office-based psychiatric practice. The advent of new agents and the broadening of the clinical usefulness of existing agents may have contributed to this increase.