Rather than helping to improve happiness levels, antidepressants do nothing, at best. At worst, they cause horrific side effects that can lead to suicide or homicide (Related: Remember when Big Pharma started trying to push antidepressants on dogs?).
Scientists from King Saud University, in partnership with doctors from the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom, say a better approach, at least to start, is group therapy sessions rather than pills.
In England between 2017 and 2018, some 7.3 million adults, or 17 percent of the population, were taking antidepressants. This is the latest time frame for which data are available.
Among the most common drugs prescribed were citalopram, sertraline, and fluoxetine, which are sold under the brand names Celexa, Zoloft, and Prozac, respectively.
In the United States between 2015 and 2018, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some 27.6 million people over the age of 18, or 13.2 percent of the population, were taking the same drugs.
The new study, which was published in the journal PLoS One, included data on all adults in the country who have been diagnosed with depression but who are not being institutionalized.
The average age of the participants was 48, and the majority, 67.9 percent, were women. More than half were antidepressant users while 43 percent were not on medication despite having a clinical diagnosis.
When they were first identified by the database, as well as two years afterward, the participants' Health-Related Quality of Life (HRQoL) scores were evaluated by the research team.
This measure is used by the CDC as an indicator of "quality of life," both mentally and physically, and is determined by having patients answer a variety of questions about their well-being.
Both mental and physical health questions are included, with healthy people scoring, on average, around a 90 on the scale.
Over the course of two years, mental health scores increased in both groups while physical scores declined. For those taking antidepressants, mental health scores increased 2.9 percent from an average of 40.32 to 41.50. Physical health scores, conversely, fell 1.5 percent from 42.5 to 41.85.
Non-users of antidepressants saw their mental health scores increase 2.2 percent from 42.99 to 43.92. Their physical scores, conversely, dropped 1.3 percent from 43.86 to 43.31.
Statistically speaking, according to Dr. Omar Almohammed, a clinical pharmacist at the Saudi university, there is no difference in health outcomes between those who take antidepressants versus those who do not.
This strongly suggests, if not proves, that antidepressants do not in any way improve quality of life, and may actually make it much worse due to the side effects.
"In this study, the people who received antidepressants had worse quality of life, and are likely to have been more severely depressed than those who did not," said Dr. Gemma Lewis, a psychiatrist at University College London, about the findings, her opinion being that the drugs may still be helping people somehow.
"This type of bias is difficult to eliminate in a naturalistic study like this, which does not involve an experimental design. Clinical trials with experimental designs have found that antidepressants improve mental health-related quality of life."
Other Western academics offered similar input in support of the drugs, suggesting that there are very different perceptions between the West and the East when it comes to this particular class of pharmaceutical drug.
"It's called the 'dirty little secret of psychology," wrote someone in the comments at the Daily Mail.
"Almost all peer-reviewed, double-blind studies have shown that taking antidepressants is no more effective than a placebo (a sugar pill) unless there is a severe pathology behind the problem."
More related news can be found at PsychDrugWatch.com.