New fathers much more likely to depend on depression drugs if they previously used them

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A recent study by UCL researchers published in JAMA Network Open reveals that new fathers are more than 30 times likely to be prescribed antidepressants if they have a recent history of such treatment.

This groundbreaking research analyzes data from over 500,000 primary care electronic health records between January 2007 and December 2016.

Key Findings

There was no difference in antidepressant prescriptions between men who had recently become fathers and those who had not.

Men with a history of antidepressant treatment were 30 times more likely to receive another prescription in the year following the birth of their child.


Lead author Holly Smith from UCL emphasizes that these findings are crucial for understanding the complex relationship between fatherhood and mental health.

She recommends that such men should consider having a mental health check-up in the first year after their child is born.

This highlights the often-overlooked importance of paternal mental health, which tends to be overshadowed by the focus on maternal and newborn health.

As Smith puts it, “We need to ensure that new dads get the care they need too by improving research on new fathers and how to engage with them about their mental health.”

Other Factors

The study also identified social deprivation as another significant factor influencing the prescription of antidepressants to new fathers.

Those living in the most deprived areas had an 18% higher risk of receiving an antidepressant prescription compared to those in the least deprived areas.

Limitations and Future Research

The identification process in the study had its limitations. Researchers identified fathers based on women of a similar age in the same household having a baby, which might have led to an underestimation of the number of fathers.

Additionally, the study only considered men who were actually prescribed antidepressants, not those who might have depression symptoms but haven’t sought medical help.

The study adds to the growing body of evidence that paternal mental health needs more attention from healthcare providers and policymakers.

It is already estimated that as many as 1 in 10 new fathers may experience depression in the year following their child’s birth.

Smith’s research indicates that understanding past treatment history could be key to providing better care for new fathers.

Therefore, as healthcare systems and policies focus on maternal and child health, there is a growing need to include paternal mental health in the discussion, particularly for those who have a history of mental health issues.

This could involve anything from more targeted mental health check-ups to broader educational campaigns.

If you care about depression, please read studies about How chronic pain is linked to depression and findings of Suicide attempts during depression linked to higher death risk.

For more information about mental health, please see recent studies that ultra-processed foods may make you feel depressed, and these antioxidants could help reduce the risk of dementia.

The research findings can be found in JAMA Network Open.

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