Later-Life Marriage Dissolution Tied to Increases in Antidepressant Use

Sex differences seen, with women experiencing greater antidepressant use and less reduction in use

By Lori Solomon HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Feb. 8, 2024 (HealthDay News) — Large increases in antidepressant (AD) use are seen at the time of marriage dissolution in later life, with smaller declines at the time of repartnering, particularly for women, according to a study published online Feb. 6 in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

Yaoyue Hu, Ph.D., from Chongqing Medical University in China, and colleagues used Finnish registry data (1996 to 2018) to examine trajectories of AD use four years before and four years after divorce, nonmarital separation, bereavement, and subsequent repartnering. The analysis included 228,644 individuals (aged 50 to 70 years in 2000 to 2014).

The researchers found that AD use for both genders increased during the four years before divorce (men: 5.00 percentage points; women: 6.96 percentage points), nonmarital separation (men: 3.20; women: 5.98), and bereavement (men: 4.53; women: 5.64). The increase in AD use was particularly accelerated immediately before the event and gradually declined after union dissolution, stabilizing on a persistently higher level versus predissolution. A small and transitory reduction in AD use was seen with repartnering (0.1 to 1.5 percentage points). In women, the increases in AD use associated with union dissolution were larger than for men, while the small reductions in AD use associated with repartnering were particularly short-lived among women.

“Our findings underscore the challenges of adapting to union dissolution in later life and the associated need for support,” the authors write.

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