ISLAMABAD: Children and adolescents with major depression do not benefit from most antidepressant medications, and some of these drugs may do more harm than good. This is the conclusion of a new study published in The Lancet.

For children and adolescents with major depression, researchers suggest the harms may outweigh the risks when it comes to antidepressant use.

Major depression, or major depressive disorder, is estimated to affect around 2.8 percent of children aged 6-12 years and 5.6 percent of adolescents aged 12-18 years in the United States, according to the study authors.

The condition is normally diagnosed if a child or adolescent experiences depressive symptoms for more than 2 weeks.

These symptoms include mood swings, irritability, changes in eating habits, frequent sadness and crying, low self-esteem, and thoughts of death or suicide.

For children and adolescents with major depression, most clinical guidelines recommend cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and other psychological therapies as the first-line treatment.

However, lead study author Dr. Andrea Cipriani, of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, and colleagues note that an increasing number of youngsters with major depression are being prescribed antidepressants.

They point to a study published earlier this year that found between 2005-2012, the proportion of children and adolescents (aged 0-19 years) in the U.S. that were taking antidepressants rose from 1.3 percent to 1.6 percent.

Such an increase has occurred despite the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warning against antidepressant use for children and adolescents in 2004, after studies found increased suicide risk among young users of the drugs.

"Consequently, the question of whether to use antidepressant drugs for the treatment of major depressive disorder in young people and, if so, which antidepressant would be preferred, remains controversial," say the authors.