Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 45, Issue 3, pp 329–335

Prevalence of depression diagnosis and prescription of antidepressants in East and West Germany: an analysis of health insurance data

  • Anke Bramesfeld
  • Thomas Grobe
  • Friedrich Wilhelm Schwartz
Original Paper



This study aimed to analyse depression-related factors. The prevalence of depression has been shown in prior surveys to vary between East and West Germany. Do these differences also appear in health insurance data?


The outpatient data of a large German statutory health insurance company were analysed for regional differences in (a) the prevalence of depression diagnosis, (b) prescription rates of antidepressants and (c) risk factors of being diagnosed with depression or prescribed antidepressants. Diagnosis rates of depression in outpatient care (ICD-10 diagnosis F32/33) were analysed for the first quarter of 2004, and prescription rates of antidepressants were analysed for the first half of 2004. Odds ratios were calculated for the likelihood of being diagnosed with depression and of being prescribed antidepressants whilst considering socio-demographic and regional variables.


The prevalence of depression diagnosis is up to 41% lower in East Germany than the expected mean rate and 30% above the expected mean rate in Berlin. Regional distribution rates of antidepressant prescriptions largely follow the same pattern as rates for depression diagnosis, with the exception of Berlin where prescription rates are 10% below the expected mean rate. Unemployed persons in West Germany have a higher chance of being diagnosed with depression and of being prescribed antidepressants than those unemployed in East Germany.


Results correspond greatly to findings of epidemiologic surveys. However, the lower rate of depression diagnosis and prescription rates in East Germany might also be due to fewer mental health professionals practising there and possible differences in reporting style of emotional symptoms. This might contribute to the differences in diagnosis and prescription prevalence but cannot be solely responsible for this phenomenon. Probable causes of the different depression prevalence rates in East and West Germany will be discussed in this analysis. More research into factors impacting on regional differences in the prevalence of depression is needed.


Depression prevalence Secondary data Mental health services Regional differences Reporting style 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anke Bramesfeld
    • 1
  • Thomas Grobe
    • 2
  • Friedrich Wilhelm Schwartz
    • 3
  1. 1.Mental Health Research Network, Clinic for PsychiatryUniversity of LeipzigLeipzigGermany
  2. 2.Institute for Social Medicine, Epidemiology and Health System Research (ISEG)HanoverGermany
  3. 3.Department for Epidemiology, Social Medicine, and Health System ResearchMedical School HanoverHanoverGermany

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