National estimates of antidepressant medication use among U.S. Children, 1997-2002

Benedetto Vitiello, Samuel H. Zuvekas, Grayson S. Norquist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Objective: A threefold increase in the use of antidepressants has been reported among children (18 years old and younger) between 1987 (0.3%) and 1996 (1.0%). The aim of this study was to determine whether pediatric use of antidepressants continued to rise at a national level during the period 1997-2002. Method: The Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) database for the years 1997-2002 was analyzed. The MEPS is a yearly survey of a nationally representative sample of civilian, noninstitutionalized U.S. households, conducted by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Overall response rate ranged between 64% and 68%. Results: An estimated 1.4 million (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.1-1.7) children received antidepressant medication in 2002 as compared to 0.9 million (95% CI 0.7-1.2) in 1997 (p = .01). The percentage of users increased from 1.3% (95% CI 0.9-1.6) in 1997 to 1.8% (95% CI 1.5-2.1) in 2002 (p < .01). Adolescent use (2.1 % in 1997 versus 3.9% in 2002 (p < .001) accounted for the increase, with no change among children younger than 13 years. Also among adolescents, the use rate remained stable during the 2000-2002 period. The increase was caused by use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and other newer antidepressants, whereas use of TCAs remained stable in adolescents (p = .84) and declined in prepubertal children (p = .04). Antidepressant use was similar among males and females and higher among whites than blacks and Hispanics. Conclusions: Nationwide, the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressant medications continued to increase in adolescents in the late 1990s and until the year 2000, with no further increase through 2002, and remained stable in prepubertal children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)271-279
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2006


  • Adolescents
  • Antidepressants
  • Children
  • Pharmacoepidemiology
  • Use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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