Increased Incident rates of antidepressant use during the COVID-19 pandemic: Interrupted time series analysis of a nationally representative sample

Sophia Frangou, Yael Travis-Lumer, Arad Kodesh, Yair Goldberg, Faye New, Abraham Reichenberg, Stephen Z. Levine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has been associated with increased levels of depression and anxiety with implications for the use of antidepressant medications. Methods: The incident rate of antidepressant fills before and during the COVID-19 pandemic were compared using interrupted time series analysis followed by comprehensive sensitivity analyses on data derived from electronic medical records from a large health management organization providing nationwide services to 14% of the Israeli population. The dataset covered the period from 1st January 2013 to 1st February 2021, with March 1st, 2020, onwards defined as the period of the COVID-19 pandemic. Forecasting analysis was implemented to test the effect of the vaccine roll-out and easing of social restrictions on antidepressant use. Results: The sample consisted of 852,233 persons with a total antidepressant incident fill count of 139,535.4 (total cumulative rate per 100,000 = 16372.91, 95% CI 16287.19, 16459.01). We calculated the proportion of antidepressant prescription fills for the COVID-19 period, and the counterfactual proportion for the same period, assuming COVID-19 had not occurred. The difference in these proportions was significant [Cohen's h=10-30.16 95% CI = 10-3. (-0.71, 1.03)] The pandemic was associated with a significant increase in the slope of the incident rate of antidepressant fills (slope change=0.01, 95% CI 0.00, 0.03; p=0.04) and a monthly increase of 2% in the relative risk of antidepressant fills. The increased rate was more pronounced in women, was not modified by lockdown on/off periods, socioeconomic or SARS-CoV-2 status. The rate of observed antidepressant fills was similar to that forecasted under the assumption of ongoing COVID-19 distress. Conclusion: These findings underscore the toll of the pandemic on mental health and inform mental health policy and service delivery during and after implementing COVID-19 attenuation strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalPsychological Medicine
Early online date10 Jun 2022
StateE-pub ahead of print - 10 Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Cambridge University Press. All rights reserved.


  • coronavirus
  • disaster
  • Epidemiology
  • public health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Increased Incident rates of antidepressant use during the COVID-19 pandemic: Interrupted time series analysis of a nationally representative sample'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this