Recession sparks anti-depressants rise

A HUGE rise in the number of anti-depressants prescribed in Suffolk could be due to increasing money worries because of the recession, it was claimed last night.

Anthony Bond

A HUGE rise in the number of anti-depressants prescribed in Suffolk could be due to increasing money worries because of the recession, it was claimed last night.

Figures obtained by the EADT reveal that 523,246 prescriptions for anti-depressants were issued in the county between April 2008 and March this year.

They show a massive increase of 40% since 2004/5 when just 374,665 prescriptions were issued.

NHS Suffolk said the figures, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, do not mean that doctors, nurses and pharmacists are issuing a larger quantity of anti-depressants.

But Suffolk Mind Partnership said the increase may be because more people are becoming depressed due to financial difficulties experienced during the recession.

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Carole Slater, psychological therapies services manager for Suffolk Mind Partnership, said: “Personally I think the figure is high but it is indicative of the times we live in. The pressures of life are becoming increasingly difficult for a lot of people.

“Obviously during a recession people are under more stresses and strains from daily living and therefore possibly find it harder to cope.”

The figures for Suffolk show a steady increase in the past five years on the number of prescriptions issued.

But Richard Hodgson, senior pharmacist at NHS Suffolk, said it does not mean there has been an increase in the quantity of drugs prescribed.

“You cannot conclude from these figures that we are prescribing more anti-depressants,” he said. “For many years we have been badgering GPs to prescribe for shorter periods for various reasons, including patient safety. It is likely that GPs are prescribing smaller quantities at a time so the number of prescription items can go up without meaning that more drugs are being prescribed.”

Despite this, Mr Hodgson agreed that with more people experiencing financial difficulties, there will be more cases of depression in the county.

“It is undoubtedly true that people in financial difficulties do suffer depression,” he said. “We are likely to see more cases of depression and it is possible that as a result you will have more demand for service to be used in the treatment of depression, whether that is medical or psychological therapy.”

Nationally there were 36m prescriptions given out in 2008, which is 2.1m more than the previous year and an increase of 24% over the past five years.

The number of prescriptions issued for anti-depressants in Suffolk

2008/9 523, 246

2007/8 495, 984

2006/7 458, 193

2005/6 426, 992

2004/5 374, 665

DESPITE the increase in prescriptions for anti-depressants, GPs often have difficulty convincing people that they need them.

Dr Janet Massey, a GP in Felixstowe, said her patients do not ask to be put on anti-depressants.

“It is usually the doctors who suggest it,” she said. “People do not often know they are depressed. They do not want to face it. The number of times we talk to people who are unhappy and we ask if they are depressed and they say 'not me'.

“People are very unwilling to take anti-depressants because there is a stigma attached to them. If people really need them, they need them. People think that they can get out of it by themselves but that often is not true.”

Dr Massey said she expects the number of prescriptions to drop in the next few years, mainly thanks to the introduction in Suffolk of Improving Access to Psychological Therapies. This gives people access to Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and counselling.

“I am sure it is going to reduce the number of anti-depressants that we are going to use,” said Dr Massey.