BACKGROUND: Late-life depression is common among older adults living in nursing homes (NHs). Over the last 30 years there has been an increase in the rates of prescription of antidepressant medications across all ages, with the largest rise reported in older adults. This study aimed to describe the pattern of antidepressant medication use among NH residents from 7 European countries and Israel and to examine patient and facilities characteristics that may account for it. METHODS: We conducted a cross-sectional analysis of data from the SHELTER study, an observational longitudinal cohort study that collected comprehensive resident data using the interRAI Long-Term Care Facility instrument in 7 European Countries and Israel. Descriptive statistics were used to examine sample characteristics. Potential correlates of antidepressant medication use were identified using multiple logistic regression modeling. RESULTS: Among 4023 residents entering the study, 32% had depressive symptoms and nearly half of these individuals used antidepressants. Antidepressant medication use varied by country, with a prevalence in the overall sample of 35.6% (n = 1431). Among antidepressant users, 59.9% were receiving selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). The strongest correlates of antidepressant use included reported diagnosis of anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, pain, falls and high level of social engagement. Age over 85 years, living in facilities located in rural areas and a diagnosis of schizophrenia reduced the likelihood of being prescribed with an antidepressant. CONCLUSIONS: A large proportion of residents in European long-term care facilities receive antidepressant medications. The decision to prescribe antidepressants to NH residents seems to be influenced by both patient and facility characteristics. Future longitudinal studies should evaluate the efficacy and safety of antidepressant use in NHs thus providing evidence for recommendations for clinical practice.