The Age of Distracted Depression

Updated 2 years ago on October 17, 2022

First, the big picture: In 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 15.8 percent of American adults were taking prescription mental health pills. During the pandemic, the National Center for Health Statistics worked with the Census Bureau to conduct quick online "pulse" surveys and track the use of prescription pills for mental illness.

The numbers they obtained echo what we already feel: We are depressed, anxious, tired and distracted. What's new is this: Nearly a quarter of Americans over the age of 18 are currently taking medication for one or more of these conditions.

Specifically, the pharmacy's benefits manager, prescriptions for three categories of medications for mental illness - depression, anxiety and A.D.H.D. - have increased since the pandemic began. However, this has been uneven, with a different story for each age group and each class of medication.

Antidepressants are still the most commonly prescribed medication in the U.S., and their use has become even more prevalent since the pandemic began, with an 8.7 percent growth rate from 2019 to 2021, compared to 7.9 percent from 2017 to 2019, according to Express Scripts.

IQVIA, a global health technology and clinical research company, found that a total of 337,054,544 antidepressant prescriptions were written during the year 2021 in the United States, a steady annual increase since 2017, when the number was 313,665,918.

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