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The relationship between socio-economic status and antidepressant prescription: a longitudinal survey and register study of young adults

  • T. von Soest (a1) (a2), J. G. Bramness (a3) (a4), W. Pedersen (a5) (a6) and L. Wichstrøm (a7)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 17 November 2011

The current study examines the relationship between socio-economic status (SES) and antidepressant prescription among young adults and investigates mechanisms that could explain such a potential social gradient.


Longitudinal survey data from a population-based Norwegian sample (N = 2606) was collected in four waves over a 13-year period. The data were linked to register data on antidepressant prescription and several indicators of SES (education, income, social or unemployment benefits, disability or rehabilitation benefits and parents' education).


Apart from parents' education, all indicators of low SES were related to higher rates of antidepressant prescription. A part of the relationship between SES and antidepressant prescription was due to low SES being related to higher levels of anxiety and depression. Moreover, low SES was related to more frequent use of mental health services, which again was related to higher rates of antidepressant prescription. Both contact with physicians and other mental healthcare professionals accounted for some of the relationship between SES and antidepressant prescription.


The study provides information about mechanisms involved in the relationship between low SES and antidepressant prescription. More research is needed about whether a comparable social gradient in antidepressant prescription is also to be found outside the Nordic countries.

Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: Tilmann von Soest, Norwegian Social Research (NOVA), P.O. Box 3223, Oslo, Norway. (Email:
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Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences
  • ISSN: 2045-7960
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