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'60 percent' rise in Danish children on antidepressants

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'60 percent' rise in Danish children on antidepressants
Photo: Flickr/Jamie
11:14 CET+01:00
An international study has shown the numbers of Danish children and youths prescribed antidepressant medication increased by 60 percent between 2005 and 2012.

An international study from Kings College London in collaboration with the University of Southern Denmark (SDU) is the first of its kind to compare levels of consumption of antidepressant medication for patients aged 0-19 between five different Western countries.

The study found that 60 percent more Danish kids took antidepressants in 2012 compared to 2005. That was a larger increase than the other four countries evaluated: the UK, the US, the Netherlands and Germany. 

The Danish part of the study found that the vast majority of prescriptions for antidepressants were written by general practitioners, despite recommendations from the Danish Health and Medicines Authority (Sundhedsstyrelsen) that state that only medical specialists should determine whether individuals under the age of 18 should be given antidepressants.

"This practice of more and more children and youth being left to general practitioners for the treatment of mental disorders is worrisome and shows that the specialist skills and resources needed to handle this group of patients and their parents is lacking," SDU professor of clinical pharmacology Lisa Aagard, who was responsible for the Danish part of the study, said in a press release. 

According to the study, 11,774 out of 1,203,817 Danish children and youths were prescribed antidepressant medicine in 2012.

Speaking to TV2, Aagaard said the study cannot not conclude whether the major increase in kids being prescribed antidepressants is caused by a higher prevalence of depression amongst young people or if doctors are simply prescribing the meds more frequently.

“We do not know. But we can see that this is a sharp increase, as it is in the other countries,” Aagaard, said. "Something in society seems to be causing children to end up in situations in which they feel depressed. This is interesting, because you would expect children to be healthy and not need medicine."

The research also found that the antidepressant citalopram was by far the common medicine prescribed by GPs despite the Danish Health and Medicines Authority's recommendation that fluoxentin should always be the first choice when medicating children. 

“The few studies that do exist show that the effect of this type of medicine on children is very poor,” Aagaard told TV2. 

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