Persistence of antidepressant use among refugee youth with common mental disorder

Heidi Taipale*, Thomas Niederkrotenthaler, Antti Tanskanen, Alexis E. Cullen, Magnus Helgesson, Lisa Berg, Marit Sijbrandij, Peter Klimek, Ellenor Mittendorfer-Rutz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: 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. Methods: 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. Results: 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. Limitations: Only persons treated in specialized healthcare could be included. Conclusion: 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)831-837
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Heidi Taipale, Ellenor Mittendorfer-Rutz and Antti Tanskanen have participated in research projects funded by grants from Janssen-Cilag and Eli Lilly to their employing institution. Heidi Taipale reports personal fees from Janssen-Cilag.

Funding Information:
The study was funded by the Swedish research council (dnr 2018-05783). The funders of the study had no role in study design, data collection, data analysis, data interpretation, or writing of the report. The corresponding authors had full access to all of the data and the final responsibility to submit for publication.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Antidepressant
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Duration of use
  • Early discontinuation
  • Persistence
  • Pharmacotherapy
  • Refugee


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