Background: Recent meta-analyses of the efficacy of second-generation antidepressants for youth have concluded that such drugs possess a statistically significant advantage over placebo in terms of clinician-rated depressive symptoms. However, no meta-analysis has included measures of quality of life, global mental health, self-esteem, or autonomy. Further, prior meta-analyses have not included self-reports of depressive symptoms. Methods: Studies were selected through searching Medline, PsycINFO, and the Cochrane Central Register for Controlled Trials databases as well as GlaxoSmithKline's online trial registry. We included self-reports of depressive symptoms and pooled measures of quality of life, global mental health, self-esteem, and autonomous functioning as a proxy for overall well-being. Results: We found a nonsignificant difference between second-generation antidepressants and placebo in terms of self-reported depressive symptoms (k = 6 trials, g = 0.06, p = 0.36). Further, pooled across measures of quality of life, global mental health, self-esteem, and autonomy, antidepressants yielded no significant advantage over placebo (k = 3 trials, g = 0.11, p = 0.13). Discussion: Though limited by a small number of trials, our analyses suggest that antidepressants offer little to no benefit in improving overall well-being among depressed children and adolescents.

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