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Persistence of antidepressant use among refugee youth with common mental disorder


The objective of this study was to investigate whether persistence of antidepressant use differs between refugee youth and Swedish-born youth after a diagnosis of a common mental disorder (CMD), and if clinical and sociodemographic factors are associated with antidepressant discontinuation.


Youth aged 16-25 years, with an incident diagnosis of CMD (depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders) accessing specialized healthcare in Sweden 2006-2016 were included. New users were identified with a one-year washout period. Refugees (N=1575) were compared with Swedish-born youth (N=2319). Cox regression models [reported as adjusted Hazard Ratios (HRs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs)] were used to investigate factors associated with discontinuation of antidepressant use.


Among youth (mean age 20.9 years, SD 2.7, 50% females), the median duration of antidepressant use differed considerably between refugee (101 days, IQR 31-243) and Swedish-born youth (252 days, IQR 101-558). Refugees were more likely to discontinue treatment (HR 1.61, 95% CI 1.47-1.77). Factors associated with an increased risk for discontinuation in refugees included ≤5 years duration of formal residency (HR 1.28, 95% CI 1.12-1.45), antidepressant type, and dispensing lag (time from prescription to dispensing) of >7 days (1.43, 1.25-1.64), whereas PTSD (0.78, 0.64-0.97) and anxiolytic use (0.79, 0.64-0.96) were associated with a lower discontinuation risk.


Only persons treated in specialized healthcare could be included.


The relatively short treatment durations among refugee youth suggest that antidepressant treatment may not be optimal in CMD, and better monitoring of treatment as well as transcultural education of healthcare personnel are warranted.


H. Taipale, T. Niederkrotenthaler, A. Tanskanen, A.E. Cullen, M. Helgesson, L. Berg, M. Sijbrandij, P. Klimek, E. Mittendorfer-Rutz, Persistence of antidepressant use among refugee youth with common mental disorder, Journal of Affective Disorders 294 (2021) 831-837.

Thomas Niederkrotenthaler

Peter Klimek, Faculty member at the Complexity Science Hub

Peter Klimek

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