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The depression pill epidemic

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

depression pills epidemic

Story at-a-glance -

  • In the U.S., an estimated 17.3 million American adults, or 7.1% of the adult population, experienced at least one major depressive episode in 2017. The highest rates are reported among those aged between 18 and 25
  • Research suggests major depression may be vastly overdiagnosed and overtreated with antidepressants, and that a majority of those who take these drugs stay on them long-term, which may compromise their health
  • Antidepressants double the risk of harm from suicide and violence in healthy adults, increase aggression two- to threefold in children and adolescents, increase risk of suicide and violence by four to five times in middle-aged women with stress urinary incontinence, and double women’s risk of a core psychotic or potential psychotic event
  • There’s a solid and ever-growing body of scientific evidence showing physical exercise is a major key in the successful treatment of depression. Several studies investigating this oft-ignored prescription are reviewed
  • A recent review, which examined randomized controlled trials published between 1999 and 2016, and meta-analyses/systematic reviews published between 2009 and 2016, concluded that “exercise is an evidenced-based medicine for depression”

According to the World Health Organization, depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide, and increased 18% between 2005 and 2015. In the U.S., an estimated 17.3 million American adults, or 7.1% of the adult population, experienced at least one major depressive episode in 2017. The highest rates are reported among those aged between 18 and 25.

Questions abound, however, over whether clinical depression is actually increasing, or whether people are simply being inappropriately diagnosed, and even more importantly, what the best treatment might be. With regard to treatment, my review will focus primarily on exercise which, rather overwhelmingly, appears to have a solid scientific basis of support.


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