A recently published annual health report by the OECD (an international economic organization of 34 countries) has ranked Canada as the fourth-highest consumer of anti-depressants. Roughly 85 Canadians out of every 1,000 take anti-depressants daily*.
Iceland leads the world as the top consumer of anti-depressants (118 out of every 1,000 take them daily), followed by Australia and Portugal.
The factors that contribute to significant variations in anti-depressant consumption across countries – Chileans, Koreans, and Estonians take anti-depressants at less than a fifth the rate of Icelanders – are complex and not always negative. High use can be attributed to plentiful availability of a wide range of drugs and affordable access to such medication, which is encouraging for people whose conditions necessitate pharmaceutical treatment.
Conversely, there may be “a need to assess the appropriateness of prescribing patterns and the availability of alternative depression treatments” in countries with particularly high antidepressants consumption. That case can certainly be made in Canada, where there is an absurdly vast selection of anti-depressants for which people are seeking, and obtaining, prescriptions during life’s normal spells of misery.
Other factors that play a role in these findings include longer durations of drug treatment and the availability of alternative treatments for depression.
By observing Germany and France’s anti-depressant consumption, which is around half that of Canada, it should be considered that our rate is unnecessarily high. Many people seek anti-depressants to cope with burnout or high stress – the aforementioned normal spells of misery – for which many European countries prescribe rest and relaxation before pharmaceuticals (considerably higher statutory minimum employment leave is a major part of that strategy).
Given the silent nature of clinical depression, it’s a very tricky proposition to suggest we should cut back on anti-depressant prescription, but one thing can be said with certainty: a lot of us feel like we’re dealing with something worthy of a drug.
*The report used the most recent available data on anti-depressant consumption from 2013.