Prevalence of and risk factors for depressive symptoms and antidepressant use in young Australian women: A cross-sectional study

Rakibul M Islam, Lucy Marsh, Robin J Bell, Marina A Skiba, Susan R Davis

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Despite the high prevalence of depression among adult women, the proportion of reproductive-aged women with moderate or severe depressive symptoms is uncertain, as is the proportion taking antidepressant medication. We report the prevalence of depressive symptoms in young Australian women, risk factors for depressive symptoms, and psychoactive drug use. Methods: An online survey was completed by population-based sample of 6,986 Australian women, aged 18-39 years, recruited from November 2016 to July 2017. Depressive symptoms were assessed by the Beck Depression Inventory-II, and psychotropic medication use was self-reported. Results: The prevalences of moderate and severe depressive symptoms were 15.0% (95% confidence interval [CI] 14.1%-15.8%) and 14.8% (95% CI 14.0%-15.7%), respectively. Housing insecurity was associated with over a twofold likelihood of moderate to severe depressive symptoms, whereas being parous or at least 25 years of age was protective. Use of any psychotropic medication was reported by 16.3% (95% CI 15.4%-17.2%). A previous cancer diagnosis was the strongest risk factor for current antidepressant use, whereas compared with being of European ancestry, being Asian or of another ancestry was associated with a lower likelihood of antidepressant use. Conclusion: The prevalence of moderate to severe depressive symptoms among young Australian women is alarming. Prevention strategies targeting the sociodemographic circumstances underpinning the identified risk factors are urgently needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)997-1005
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Women's Health
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


  • antidepressant use
  • depressive symptoms
  • young women

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