Summary: New fathers with a history of antidepressant use are over 30 times more likely to require such treatment again in the first year after their child’s birth.
The study, which analyzed over 500,000 primary care electronic health records, found no difference in antidepressant treatment between new fathers and men who hadn’t recently had a child, except when a history of treatment was considered.
The researchers suggest that these fathers might benefit from a mental health check-up in the first year post-childbirth.
- The study analyzed the health records of 90,736 men who had a child in the past year and 453,632 men who had not, focusing on the incidence of antidepressant prescription.
- Having a history of antidepressant treatment made fathers over 30 times more likely to need treatment again after they had a child.
- Fathers residing in the most deprived areas were found to have an 18% higher risk of receiving an antidepressant prescription compared to fathers in the least deprived areas.
New fathers are over 30 times more likely to take antidepressants in the first year after having a child, if they have a recent history of the treatment, finds a new study by UCL researchers.
The research, published in JAMA Network Open, analysed information from over 500,000 primary care electronic health records from the IQVIA Medical Research Database, from January 2007 to December 2016.
These included 90,736 men who had had a child in the previous year and 453,632 men who did not have a child. The team then examined how many men in each category had received an antidepressant prescription.
The researchers found no difference in antidepressant treatment between the two groups.
However, the results showed that having a history of antidepressant treatment made fathers over 30 times more likely to need treatment again after they had a child. Consequently, the researchers suggest that it could be beneficial for these men to have a mental health check-up with their GP in the first year after having a child.
Lead author, PhD candidate, Holly Smith (UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health), said “Our findings show that the relationship between depression and fatherhood is complex and that previous antidepressant treatment is a key determinant associated with antidepressant use in the year after having a child.
“This may be because the men are continuing treatment they were on before having a child, or these men may be more susceptible to having feelings of depression again and the challenges of having a new child may exacerbate this.
“After the birth of a child, attention is normally focused on the health of the mother and baby. However, 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.”
Previous evidence suggests that men may be at higher risk of depression directly following the birth of their child. And it is thought that as many as 1 in 10 may have depression in the year after their child’s birth*.
Antidepressants are one of the most common treatments for depression, yet there is little information on how many fathers are prescribed treatment in the year after having a child, and how this compares to men who haven’t recently had a child.
Alongside previous antidepressant use, the researchers found that social deprivation was also a key factor as to whether new fathers were prescribed antidepressants.
Fathers who lived in the most deprived areas had an 18% higher risk of receiving an antidepressant prescription compared with fathers living in the least deprived areas.
The study is funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR).
The identification of fathers in the study relied on women of a similar age in the same household being recorded as having a baby within the study timeframe. This means that the researchers may have underestimated the number of fathers in the data set.
Researchers also focused on men who were prescribed antidepressants, rather than those with symptoms or diagnoses of depression.
About this psychopharmacology research news
Original Research: Open access.
“Association of recent fatherhood with antidepressant treatment initiation among men in the United Kingdom” by Holly Smith et al. JAMA Network Open
Association of recent fatherhood with antidepressant treatment initiation among men in the United Kingdom
There is some evidence that men may be at higher risk of depression directly following the birth of their child and that approximately 1 in 10 men will experience depression in the year after birth, but less is known about men’s antidepressant treatment during this time. Likewise, few direct comparisons have been made with antidepressant treatment in men who have not recently become fathers.
To determine whether recently having a child was associated with increased odds of antidepressant treatment in men.
Design, Setting, and Participants
This cohort study used UK primary care electronic health records from the IQVIA Medical Research Database. Participants included men aged 15 to 55 years who had had a child in the previous year, from January 2007 to December 2016, and compared with up to 5 men who did not have a child in the same calendar year. Data were analyzed from January 2022 to March 2023.
A record of having a child in the previous year was identified through linked primary care records using a family identification number.
Main Outcomes and Measures
The main outcome was antidepressant initiation in the year after childbirth or in the year after this index date for men who did not have a child. Random-effects Poisson regression was used to determine associations of cohort, age group, social deprivation, history of antidepressant treatment, and calendar year with having an antidepressant prescription in the year after index date using prevalence risk rates (PPRs).
Analysis included 90 736 men who had had a child in the previous year and 453 632 men in the comparison cohort. Most men in the study (463 879 men [85.2%]) were aged between 25 and 44 years, and there were more men living in the least deprived areas (130 277 men [23.9%]) than the most deprived areas (72 268 men [13.3%]). Overall, 4439 men (4.9%) had at least 1 antidepressant prescription in the year after they had a child, compared with 26 646 men (5.9%) who did not have a child in the same year. However, after adjustment there was no difference in antidepressant treatment between groups (adjusted PRR [aPRR], 1.01; 95% CI, 0.98-1.04). In fathers, those who had recently received antidepressant treatment were much more likely to receive antidepressant treatment after childbirth compared with fathers with no history of antidepressant treatment (aPRR, 32.31; 95% CI, 30.37-34.38). Fathers living in the most deprived areas were 18% more likely to have an antidepressant prescription compared with fathers living in the least deprived areas (aPRR, 1.18; 95% CI, 1.07-1.30).
Conclusions and Relevance
These findings suggest that recently having a child was not associated with an increase in antidepressant treatment among men, but previous antidepressant treatment in fathers was strongly associated with treatment after childbirth. Further research is needed to determine whether antidepressant treatment or experiencing depression can be a barrier to fatherhood and whether fatherhood is a barrier to receiving antidepressant treatment.