December 31, 2011 by staff
Antidepressants, Prescriptions for antidepressants have jumped by almost 28% in the last three years, according to new figures. Experts say that the number of people given antidepressants has been increasing over the years, but that the country’s economic woes are taking a toll on people’s mental health.
Data sent to BootsWebMD by the NHS Health Information Centre shows that in the last financial year there were 43.4 million prescriptions for antidepressants in England, compared with just under 34 million in 2007-08.
The use of anti-anxiety drugs – known as anxiolytics – went up from just over six million to just over 6.5 million in the same period – an increase of 8%. Prescriptions for sleeping pills rose 3% from around 9.9 million to 10.2 million.
The cost to the NHS of prescribing the medication has gone down, though. The bill for antidepressants dropped from £264.5 million to £235.3 million during the same three year period, the figures reveal.
Emer O’Neill, chief executive of Depression Alliance, says there is no doubt that the recession is contributing to depression and other mental health problems. “People who’ve never been out of work before find themselves out of work for three, six or nine months,” she tells us. “There’s the anxiety that comes when people lose their confidence and then, when depression sets in, it’s very hard to shake it off. Then you put financial worries on top of that and it’s having an impact with relationship breakdowns.”
One worrying trend is an increasing number of young people contacting the charity. “Teenagers are coming forward because of the impact of recession on their own families,” Emer O’Neill says.
Paul Famer, chief executive of the mental health charity Mind, says in an emailed statement: “There are a number of factors which could lead to increased prescription figures. The tough economic times may have contributed to more people experiencing depression but improved awareness around mental health problems may also mean more people are seeking help for their problems, with doctors also getting better at spotting symptoms.”
He adds: “It’s important to remember that antidepressants can be a lifeline for some people which enable them to manage their mental health problems.
“It is worrying that antidepressants can be the first port of call for some doctors, despite the fact that ‘watchful waiting’ and talking therapies are recommended as the first line of treatment for mild to moderate depression. In some parts of the country there is a lack of access to talking treatments, such as counselling, which means doctors are left with little choice but to prescribe medication, even when they think that an alternative treatment would be more effective.”
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