Taking antidepressants is linked to a 33% higher risk of death, new research finds.
The risk of a cardiovascular ‘event’ (strokes and heart attacks) was also 14% higher for those taking antidepressants.
This research used data from hundreds of thousands of people collected from many different studies.
Dr Paul Andrews, who led the study, said:
“We are very concerned by these results.
They suggest that we shouldn’t be taking antidepressant drugs without understanding precisely how they interact with the body.”
It is well-known that antidepressants change mood by affecting levels of the neurotransmitter, serotonin.
What is less well-known is that serotonin is also used in the heart, kidney, lungs and liver — indeed all the major organs.
Potentially, the drug could stop the major organs working properly.
Family doctors often prescribe antidepressants on the assumption that they are safe.
However, Ms Marta Maslej, the study’s first author, said:
“Our findings are important because they undermine this assumption.
I think people would be much less willing to take these drugs if they were aware how little is known about their impact outside of the brain, and that what we do know points to an increased risk of death.”
Dr Benoit Mulsant, study co-author and practicing psychiatrist, said we need to know more about how the drugs work:
“I prescribe antidepressants even though I do not know if they are more harmful than helpful in the long-term.
I am worried that in some patients they could be, and psychiatrists in 50 years will wonder why we did not do more to find out.”
For people with pre-existing cardiovascular disease, though, the antidepressants were not harmful, probably because they have a blood-thinning effect.
However, for those otherwise in good cardiovascular health, the antidepressants were harmful, the research suggests.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics (Maslej et al., 2017).