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In many epidemiological studies, women have been observed to consume psychotropic medication more often than men. However, the consistency of this relationship across Europe, with differences in mental health care (MHC) resources and reimbursement policies, is unknown.
Questions on 12-month psychotropic use (antidepressants, benzodiazepines, antipsychotics, mood stabilizers) were asked to 34,204 respondents from 10 European countries of the EU-World Mental Health surveys. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fourth Edition) criteria were used to determine 12-month prevalence of mood/anxiety disorders using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (v3.0).
For all participating countries, women were significantly more likely than men to use psychotropic medication within the previous 12 months (overall-OR = 2.04, 95% CI: 1.81–2.31). This relationship remained significant after adjusting for common sociodemographic factors (age, income level, employment status, education, marital status) and country-level indicators (MHC provision, private household out-of-pocket expenditure, and Gender Gap Index). In multivariable gender-stratified risk-factor analysis, both women and men were more likely to have taken psychotropic medication with increasing age, decreasing income level, and mental health care use within the past 12 months, with no significant differences between genders. When only including participants with a mental disorder, gender differences overall were still significant with any 12-month mood disorder but not with any 12-month anxiety disorder, remaining so after adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics and country-level indicators.
Women use psychotropic medication consistently more often than men, yet reasons for their use are similar between genders. These differences also appear to be contingent on the specific mental disorder.
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