New fathers more likely to need antidepressants if they’ve had them before
A new study has found that men with a history of being prescribed antidepressants are significantly more likely to require antidepressants in the first year after having a child.
Depression affects many people worldwide. Postnatal, or postpartum, depression is a well-known condition affecting women, but how does having a child affect the mental health of new fathers? A new study by researchers at University College London has set out to answer that question. To their knowledge, it is the first study to investigate antidepressant treatment in recent fathers and a cohort of men without children.
“After the birth of a child, attention is normally focused on the health of the mother and baby,” said Holly Smith, lead author of the study. “However, we need to ensure that new dads get the care they need too by improving research on new fathers and how to engage with them about their mental health.”
The researchers used a UK primary care database, IQVIA Medical Research Data (IMRD), to identify 90,736 men aged 15 to 55 with a record of having a newborn child in the previous year and 453,632 men (the comparison cohort) who did not have a child.
Men were followed up for 12 months and considered to be treated with antidepressants if they’d had an antidepressant prescribed in that period. Antidepressants included selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), tricyclic and related antidepressants, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI), and atypical antidepressant drugs like mirtazapine.
Antidepressant history was categorized as recent treatment (in the year prior to childbirth), previous treatment (in the two years prior), and none. If a person had both previous and recent treatment, they were categorized as having recent treatment only.
While the researchers found no difference in antidepressant treatment between the two groups, they found that having a history of antidepressant treatment made new fathers more than 30 times more likely to need treatment again.
“Our findings show that the relationship between depression and fatherhood is complex and that previous antidepressant treatment is a key determinant associated with antidepressant use in the year after having a child,” Smith said. “This may be because the men are continuing treatment they were on before having a child, or these men may be more susceptible to having feelings of depression again, and the challenges of having a new child may exacerbate this.”
Alongside prior antidepressant use, the researchers found that social deprivation was also a key factor in prescribing antidepressants to new fathers. They measured social deprivation using the Townsend deprivation index, a measure of material deprivation incorporating four variables: unemployment, non-car ownership, non-home ownership and household overcrowding.
They found that new fathers who lived in the most deprived areas had an 18% increased risk of receiving an antidepressant prescription compared with fathers living in the least deprived areas.
The researchers note that a limitation of their study was that they focused on men prescribed antidepressants but did not examine whether they had symptoms or diagnoses of depression. Nevertheless, they say their findings suggest that men with a history of antidepressant treatment should have a mental health checkup in the first year after having a child.
The study was published in the journal JAMA Network Open.
Source: University College London