Psychotropic medicines

1. Key messages

In 2018, 12% of the population reported the use of sleeping pills or tranquilizers in the last 2 weeks, and 8% reported recent use of antidepressants. The consumption of sleeping pills or tranquilizers started to decrease in 2008, while the consumption of antidepressants continued to increase.

Consumption of psychotropic medicines was more frequent in the lowest educated group compared to the highest educated group.

2. Background

In Belgium, the Health Interview Survey is one of the main sources of systematic data on mental health indicators in the general population. It namely monitors the self-reported use of sedatives (sleeping pills or tranquilizers) and antidepressants in Belgium since 1997. For the sedatives, the Health Interview Survey is the only available data source, since those drugs are not reimbursed and therefore, do not figure in the health insurance data.

The use of psychotropic drugs is measured during the last 2 weeks in people aged 15 and over.

3. Consumption of psychotropic medicines

Situation in 2018

Belgium

In 2018, 12.3% of the population used sedatives (sleeping pills or tranquilizers) and 7.6% used antidepressants in the past 2 weeks. More women than men consumed sedatives (15% in women vs 9.5% in men) and antidepressants (9.8% vs 5.3%).

The consumption of sedatives increased with age, particularly after 45 years in women and after 65 years in men.

The consumption of antidepressants is particularly high in women after 45 years of age.

  • Sleeping pills and tranquillizers
  • Antidepressants

Consumption of sleeping pills or tranquillizers by age and sex, Belgium, 2018
Source: Health Interview Survey, Sciensano, 2018 [1]

Consumption of antidepressants by age and sex, Belgium, 2018
Source: Health Interview Survey, Sciensano, 2018 [1]

Regional specificities

In 2018, the consumption of sedatives is slightly higher in Wallonia and in Flanders than in Brussels, but the regional differences are narrow and not significant.

The consumption of antidepressants is slightly lower in Flanders than in the other regions, but the differences are only significant in women.

Trends

Belgium

From 1997 to 2008, the consumption of sedatives in the population increased, then it decreased in 2013 and in 2018 when considering both genders together. In men the consumption remained stable round 10%, while it decreased from 19% in 2008 to 15% in 2018 in women.

Since 1997, the consumption of antidepressants has doubled in both genders.

Regional specificities

The consumption of sedatives used to be significantly lower in Flanders than in the 2 other regions until 2008 in both genders. After 2008, as the use of sedatives continued to increase in Flanders while slightly decreasing in the other regions, the regional differences narrowed and quasi disappeared by 2018.

  • Men
  • Women

Consumption of sleeping pills or tranquillizers in men in Belgium and its regions, 1997-2018
Source: Own calculations based on Health Interview Survey, Sciensano, 1997-2018 [1]

Consumption of sleeping pills or tranquillizers in women in Belgium and its regions, 1997-2018
Source: Own calculations based on Health Interview Survey, Sciensano, 1997-2018 [1]

The consumption of antidepressants followed a same evolution in both genders and in all regions, that is, it has significantly increased since 1997.

  • Men
  • Women

Consumption of antidepressants in men in Belgium and its regions, 1997-2018
Source: Own calculations based on Health Interview Survey, Sciensano, 1997-2018 [1]

Consumption of antidepressants in women in Belgium and its regions, 1997-2018
Source: Own calculations based on Health Interview Survey, Sciensano, 1997-2018 [1]

Socio-economic disparities

There was a socio-economic gradient in the consumption of sedatives and antidepressants. A higher proportion of people from the lowest educational group consumed sedatives (17.7% vs 12.3%) and antidepressants (10.3% vs 6%) than from the highest educational group.

Consumption of sleeping pills or tranquilizers and antidepressants, by educational level, Belgium, 2018
Source: Own calculations based on Health Interview Survey, Sciensano, 2018 [1]

4. Read more

View the metadata for this indicator

HISIA: Interactive Analysis of the Belgian Health Interview Survey

References

  1. Health Interview Survey, Sciensano, 1997-2018. https://his.wiv-isp.be/