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Soc Sci Med. 2013 Oct;94:71-80. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.06.027. Epub 2013 Jul 12.

Divorce and changes in the prevalence of psychotropic medication use: a register-based longitudinal study among middle-aged Finns.

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University of Helsinki, Department of Social Research, P.O. Box 59, 00014 Helsinki, Finland.


The annual prevalence of psychotropic medication use exceeds 10 percent in Europe and the United States, the prevalence being higher among the divorced than the married. We analysed changes in the three-month prevalence of psychotropic medication use (psycholeptics and psychoanaleptics excluding medication for dementia) by proximity to divorce, sex, medication type and socio-demographic characteristics, using register-data on 304,111 Finns between 25 and 64 years of age, of whom 23,956 divorced between 1995 and 2003 and 142,093 were continuously married from 1995 to 2004. Five years before divorce, men and women already displayed about one percentage point higher prevalence of psychotropic medication use than those who continued their marriage. The excess prevalence increased with approaching divorce and peaked six to nine months before divorce, reaching 7.3 percent (95% CI 6.8-8.0) among divorcing men and 8.1 percent (95% CI 7.5-8.8) among divorcing women. The peak was followed by an 18-month decline, after which the excess compared to the continuously married settled at nearly three percentage points. The excess was not due to being socio-economically disadvantaged, and socio-demographic factors also seemed to have few modifying effects. The changes in prevalence were largest for antidepressants and almost non-existent for antipsychotics. Our results suggest that the high prevalence of psychotropic medication use among the divorced results both from selective factors already present five years before divorce and the acute and long-term causal effects of becoming and being divorced. Counselling is needed for individuals in the process of divorce, rather than economic support for divorced individuals.


Divorce; Finland; Mental disorders; Mental health; Psychotropic drugs

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