To determine the use of antidepressants (ADs) in people with sub-threshold depression (SD); the lifetime prevalence of mania and hypomania in SD and the link between ADs use, bipolarity and anxiety disorders in SD.
Study design: community survey. Study population: samples randomly drawn, after stratification from the adult population of municipal records. Sample size: 4999 people from seven areas within six Italian regions. Tools: Questionnaire on psychotropic drug consumption, prescription; Structured Clinical Interview NP for DSM-IV modified (ANTAS); Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM-D); Mood Disorder Questionnaire (MDQ); Short Form Health Survey (SF-12). SD definition: HAM-D > 10 without lifetime diagnosis of Depressive Episode (DE).
SD point prevalence is 5.0%. The lifetime prevalence of mania and hypomania episodes in SD is 7.3%. Benzodiazepines (BDZ) consumption in SD is 24.1%, followed by ADs (19.7%). In SD, positive for MDQ and comorbidity with Panic Disorder (PD) or Generalized Anxiety Disorders (GAD) are associated with ADs use, whereas the association between a positive MDQ and ADs use, without a diagnosis of PD or GAD, is not significant. Only in people with DE the well-being (SF-12) is higher among those using first-line antidepressants compared to those not using any medication. In people with SD no significant differences were found in terms of SF-12 score according to drug use.
This study suggests caution in prescribing ADs to people with SD. In people with concomitant anxiety disorders and SD, it should be mandatory to perform a well-designed assessment and evaluate the presence of previous manic or hypomanic symptoms prior to prescribing ADs.