Gender Differences in Prescribing Medication for Mental Health

A new report from Medco Health Solutions, a pharmacy benefit manager, illustrates the gender differences that exist when it comes to prescribing medications for mental health conditions.

The report compares the utilization of antidepressants, antipsychotics, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drugs and anti-anxiety treatments from 2001 to 2010 amongst 2.5 million insured Americans.

The analysis showed that women of all ages are taking more prescribed drugs for mental health conditions than men. Some of the findings:

  • 1 in 4 women were prescribed at least one mental health-related drug in 2010, compared to just 15% of men
  • Antidepressants were by far the most commonly prescribed mental health-related medication; Over 20% of women are prescribed a drug for depression
  • Women were more than twice as likely to be prescribed an anxiety medication than men; 11% of women 45-65 years old were on an anti-anxiety drug last year
  • Though boys are more often than girls to be prescribed medications to treat ADHD, adult women are 2.5 times more likely to be taking ADHD meds than men
  • The use of prescribed ADHD drugs for women aged 20-44 has grown 264% in the past 10 years

Why are women more likely to be taking mental health-related medications? The answer isn’t completely clear. Many believe that it could be due to the fact that women are more likely to seek treatment at a doctor’s office than men. Women may also have a higher risk for major depressive disorders, so there may be a biological factor at play. Men may simply be more resistant or unwilling to accept treatment for a mental health disorder and try to “tough it out” instead.

“The overall results, that substantially more individuals are on psychotropic medications is sobering and important. Understanding the reasons for this increase is the next critical goal,” says Dr. Martha Sajatovic, Professor of Psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and Director of the Neurological Outcomes Center, University Hospitals Case Medical Center. “The health care implications could be substantial given increasing financial constraints on individuals and health care funding entities.”

Sources: Medco, Huffington Post