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Human service work, gender and antidepressant use: a nationwide register-based 19-year follow-up of 752 683 women and men

Abstract

Objectives To examine antidepressant use among male and female human service professionals.

Methods A random sample of individuals between 25 years and 54 years of age (n=752 683; 49.2% women; mean age 39.5 years). Information about each individual’s filled antidepressant prescriptions from 1995 to 2014 was provided by the Social Insurance Institution. First, antidepressant use in five broad human service categories was compared with that in all other occupations grouped together, separately for men and women. Then, each of the 15 human service professions were compared with all other occupations from the same skill/education level (excluding other human services professions). Cox models were applied and the results are presented as HRs for antidepressant use with 95% CIs.

Results The hazard of antidepressant use was higher among men working in human service versus all other occupations with the same skill/occupational level (1.22, 95% CI 1.18 to 1.27), but this was not the case for women (0.99, 95% CI 0.98 to 1.01). The risks differed between professions: male health and social care professionals (including medical doctors, nurses, practical nurses and home care assistants), social workers, childcare workers, teachers and psychologists had a higher risk of antidepressant use than men in non-human service occupations, whereas customer clerks had a lower risk.

Conclusions Male human service professionals had a higher risk of antidepressant use than men working in non-human service occupations. Gendered sociocultural norms and values related to specific occupations as well as occupational selection may be the cause of the elevated risk.

  • mental health
  • epidemiology
  • psychiatry
  • longitudinal studies

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