Antidepressant prescribing in England doubles in past decade

6 July 2016

A new report published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre has found that “that the number of antidepressant items prescribed and dispensed in England has more than doubled in the last decade”.

The number of antidepressant prescriptions was 6.8% higher in 2015 than 2014 and 100% higher in 2015 than 2005. It is estimated that in 2015 the prescription of antidepressants cost the NHS £780,000 per day.

Commenting Isabella Goldie, Director of Development and Delivery at the Mental Health Foundation, said:

"There are two key issues. The first is that we are pathologising difficult lives. Whilst there is role for antidepressants in treating moderate and severe depression, they don’t work for everyone and should not be the first port of call for mild or first onset depression.

"Alarmingly the fastest growing rate of depression is among young people and as a result we are seeing increasing numbers of young people being prescribed antidepressants, despite the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence being clear that this should only be considered when depression is resistant to psychological therapy.

"We know that CBT and other psychological approaches, including mindfulness based cognitive therapy, are just as effective and have fewer side effects than antidepressants. They are also increasingly available online, which gives people greater control. There has been progress made in widening treatment, but there is clearly much more we can do to provide people with the self-management approaches and tools that are non-stigmatising and accessible.

"The second key issue, is that whilst the increase in prescriptions is likely to be indicative that more people are seeking help, it is also indicative that we need to be doing more to prevent people developing common mental health problems, like mild or first onset depression. That so many people are being prescribed antidepressants sends out a message that we need to raise awareness of the steps we can all take to protect and sustain our mental health."

For further information or to arrange an interview with Isabella Goldie contact James Harris, Head of Media and Communications at the Mental Health Foundation on 020 7479 7739 / 07766574447 or via jharris@mentalthealth.org.uk.