Depression and the use of antidepressants more common in women than men. Photo: iStock

Antidepressant usage among patients aged 65 and above has more than doubled over the past two decades, despite fewer diagnoses of depression, a new study has shown.

Published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, the study analysed the changing prevalence and treatment of depression among older people over twenty years.

The researchers interviewed more than 15,000 older adults across England and Wales, between 1991 and 1993 and between 2008 and 2011.

They found the proportion of older adults on antidepressants increased from 4.2 per cent in the early 1990s to 10.7 per cent twenty years later. The estimated prevalence of depression among over 65s in the early 1990s was 7.9 per cent, compared to 6.8 per cent 20 years later.

The prevalence of depression in care homes, however, remained unchanged.

Lead author of the study, Prof Antony Arthur from the University of East Anglia, said: “Depression is a leading cause of poor quality of life worldwide and we know that older people may be less likely than other age groups to go to their GP with symptoms of depression.”

The research further found depression and the use of antidepressants more common in women than men at both time points.

“Whatever the explanation, substantial increases in prescribing has not reduced the prevalence of depression in the over-65 population. The causes of depression in older people, the factors that perpetuate it, and the best ways to manage it remain poorly understood and merit more attention,” Arthur added.