Women use mental health drugs at higher rate than men, study finds


WASHINGTON — Women take mental health drugs at a much higher rate than men, according to a new study by one of the country's largest pharmacy benefit managers.

Medco Health Solutions released results of the study Monday, showing that 25% of women use psychotropic drugs, compared with 15% of men. The study was based on the pharmacy claims of more than 2 million Americans and measured the use of drugs for treating depression, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and psychotic disorders between 2001 and 2010.

"Some mental health medications, such as antidepressants, have historically been more widely used by women than men," lead researcher and Medco Neuroscience Therapeutic Resource Center psychiatrist and national practice leader David Muzina said. "However, what is surprising is how many women are taking these medications and the substantial increase in the number of women on treatments that have traditionally not been heavily used by females, like ADHD drugs."

While boys used ADHD drugs at a much higher rate than girls, women used them more than men. Women ages 20 to 44 years showed the highest use of the drugs among adults, with utilization rising by 264% over the decade. A similar pattern occurred with antipsychotics, with use higher among boys than among girls, but higher among women than among men.

Meanwhile, 11% of women ages 45 to 64 years used anti-anxiety drugs, compared with 5.7% of men.

"These findings confirm that mental illness is a growing problem in the United States and that more patients are seeking needed therapy," Muzina said. "However, adequate monitoring by pharmacists and physicians and an open patient dialogue is imperative due to the complexities of mental illness and the risk of taking these medications inappropriately."

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