One third of Americans are taking prescription and over-the-counter drugs, such as birth control pills, antacids and common heart medications, that may raise the risk of depression, researchers warned on Tuesday.
Qato hopes the research leads to improved warnings on how these prescription medications could lead to depression.
Since the drugs are so common, people may be unaware of their potential depressive effects, said the report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
"The use of multiple medications associated with a potential risk for depression or suicidal symptoms is increasing and may be contributing to the growing problem of depression", said lead researcher Dima Mazen Qato.
Participants who took such meds were "more likely" to be depressed than people who didn't, study author Dr. Mark Olfson, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, tells NPR. What's more, the fraction of American adults taking three or more prescription drugs with these side effects jumped from 6.9 percent in 2005-2006 to 9.5 percent in 2013-2014.
Some of the medication on the list are well known for their depression-like side effects, such as beta-blockers and interferon.
For other common medications - like blood pressure lowering pills, antacids known as proton pump inhibitors, painkillers and hormonal contraceptives - the warnings are harder to find or simply don't exist in the packaging.
Researchers at the University of IL at Chicago analyzed the use of medications of more than 26,000 adults from 2005 to 2014 who participated in a larger health and nutrition survey.
About 15 percent of adults are thought to use five or more prescription medications simultaneously, the researchers said in background notes.
"The take away message of this study is that polypharmacy can lead to depressive symptoms and that patients and health care providers need to be aware of the risk of depression that comes with all kinds of common prescription drugs - many of which are also available over the counter", said lead author Professor Dima Qato, from the University of IL at Chicago, in a statement. The researchers have not established any causal relationship between the drugs they identified in the study and depression - they merely pointed out a correlation.
"With depression as one of the leading causes of disability and increasing national suicide rates, we need to think innovatively about depression as a public health issue, and this study provides evidence that patterns of medication use should be considered in strategies that seek to eliminate, reduce or minimize the impact of depression in our daily lives", she said.