Melatonin use among children, adolescents, and young adults: a Danish nationwide drug utilization study

Mette Bliddal*, Helene Kildegaard, Lotte Rasmussen, Martin Ernst, Poul Jørgen Jennum, Stine Hasling Mogensen, Anton Pottegård, Rikke Wesselhoeft

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


We aimed to provide a detailed description of the use of melatonin in Danish children, adolescents, and young adults during 2012–2019. We identified melatonin users 0–24 years of age (n = 43,652; median age 16 years) via the Danish nationwide health registers. Melatonin is a prescription drug in Denmark. The incidence of melatonin use increased from 2.4 to 3.9/1000 person-years during 2012 to 2019. Among 6,557 incident users in 2019, 53% filled only a single prescription within the first 6 months. Long-term use was most common among the younger age groups, with 17% of 5–9-year-olds and 14% of 10–13-year-olds being in continued treatment (no treatment breaks) 12 months after their first melatonin prescription. Disregarding treatment breaks, 3 in 10 were using melatonin 12 months after their first melatonin prescription and this proportion was also highest among 5–9-year-olds (63%) and 10–13-year-olds (51%). Psychopathology was common among melatonin users with 75% registered with either a psychiatric disorder diagnosis (54%), a filled prescription for another psychotropic (58%), or a contact to a private practice psychiatrist (15%) within ± 12 months of treatment initiation. General practitioners authorized melatonin prescriptions to almost half of all new users (48%), while psychiatric specialists authorized 37% of first prescriptions. In conclusion, the incidence of melatonin use increased in Denmark from 2012 to 2019. A substantial proportion of users had concurrent psychopathology most likely explaining their use of melatonin. Long-term melatonin use was more common among the youngest age groups, which should be a focus of interest due to limited safety data.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number10
Pages (from-to)2021-2029
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023


  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Drug utilization study
  • Melatonin
  • Register-based cohort study
  • Melatonin/therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Drug Utilization
  • Drug Prescriptions
  • Young Adult
  • Denmark/epidemiology
  • Prescription Drugs
  • Registries


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