Consumption of antidepressants in Spain increased by 250% in 20 years

by Lorraine Williamson
prescription drugs

MADRID – The daily consumption of antidepressants in Spain has increased by 249% over the past two decades. 

This is evident from recent data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This is an alarming trend that has caught the attention of health experts and policymakers. 

Daily use

In 2022, the daily use of antidepressants was 98.4 doses per 1,000 inhabitants in Spain. That´s an increase of 6% over the previous year. 

The figures show that Spain has the fifth highest consumption of antidepressants among OECD countries. Iceland leads the list with an average of 157.3 doses, followed by Portugal (150.5), Canada (134), and Sweden (114.5). 


Sales of antidepressants in Spain amounted to 2.9% of all drugs sold in the country in 2022. That equates to the fourth-highest percentage in the entire OECD. 

The data is alarming: Antidepressants lead the rise in drug use in Spain, followed by cholesterol pills (36%) and new treatments for high blood pressure (32%). The use of antidepressants, which has seen steady growth year after year, increased significantly in 2020 during the lockdown. 

Cogesa Expats

Also see: Post-viral fatigue drives up sales of antidepressants 


According to the results of the General Council of Pharmacists after analysing the data of the dispensing of medicines at the expense of the public health system during 2020, during the first lockdown, there was a 10 to 15% increase in the use of medicines for conditions such as anxiety, depression or sleep disorders. 

The increase in consumption in 2020 has more than doubled compared to 2019: 4.8% compared to 2%. The annual increase in the specific group of anxiety-reducing drugs was more than 5%, and that of sedatives (consciousness-lowering drugs) was more than 4% when comparing data from 2020 and 2019. And the data continues to rise. 

Largest consumer of benzodiazepines

These figures make the Spanish population the largest consumer of benzodiazepines in the world. The countries following Spain are Belgium and Portugal with 80 doses, while only 0.4 doses/day/1,000 inhabitants of this substance are consumed in Germany. 

The growth in consumption since the year 2000 raises questions about the mental health of the population and the way depression and related conditions are treated. On the one hand, the increase can be partly attributed to a better understanding and diagnosis of depression and related disorders. On the other hand, it raises questions about possible over-prescribing and the need for additional supportive therapies. 

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