Women more likely to need antidepressants after a break-up, study finds

Scientists say women are more likely to take antidepressants after a break-up than men.

It is thought gender differences in roles within families, as well as differences in responsibilities and economic status could be the reasons behind the difference, researchers said.

The study looked at antidepressant use among 228,644 Finnish people aged 50 to 70 between 1996 and 2018.

Around 33% if the group were divorced while 30% had brokem up with their partner and moved out. A further 37% were bereaved following their partner’s death.

Antidepressant use in both men and women increased in the six months leading up to divorce, by 5% and 7% respectively.

Researchers found this fell immediately afterwards and stabilised after a year, but remained higher than before the divorce.

However, women going through a break-up increased their use by 6% in the four years leading up to it compared with 3.2% among men.

For men, use of antidepressants fell back to the level it was 12 months before the break-up, although it increased among women.

Researchers said the findings, published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, “may indeed relate to the fact that the costs of union dissolution on mental health fall more heavily on women than men”.

“Gender differences in family roles, responsibilities and economic status are often the explanations for the greater detrimental impacts of union dissolution on mental health observed in women than in men,” they added.

“Nevertheless, the more extensive social network, greater social support and better health behaviours of women could enable them to cope with union dissolution better than men, and thus make them less vulnerable mentally during the transition.”

Among those whose partners had died, antidepressant use was higher in both men and women for up to four years before their death.

Usage increased by 7% in women for three months before and three months after bereavement, compared with 5.5% in men. Of the group in the study, 53,460 people had entered into a new relationship within two to three years.

Men were more likely to do this than women, researchers found.


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