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GP consultation rates increase by a third in children with parental depression

Young people whose parents have depression are 28% more likely to visit their GP according to a new study.

The research, published in the BMJ, analysed data for 25,252 patients at the Valentine Health Partnership in London.

Through the data, the researchers were able to look at anonymised household groups and found that parental depression is associated with increased GP consultation rates among adolescents.

Children who have parents with depression are also 41% more likely to attend A&E, 47% more likely to be admitted as an inpatient and 67% more likely to have an outpatient appointment.

According to the latest figures one in six adults in England was prescribed antidepressants last year - nearly half a million more than in 2015.

Dr Rebecca Rosen, a GP partner at Valentine Health Partnership and co-author of the research, said: ‘This study provides evidence about the influence that parental health can have on children’s use of GP services and highlights the importance of providing personal and family continuity for some patients. 

‘We need to develop simple ways for practices to identify which families would most benefit from this type of relational holistic care.’

The research also found that there was higher demand for emergency and GP care for children of parents who themselves are higher users of these services.

Kathryn Dreyer, lead researcher on the paper and a principal data analyst at the Health Foundation, said: ‘Our research is an observational study and did not explore the reason for increased demand. There are several possible explanations for the findings.

‘For example, it could be that parental depression might be a consequence of prolonged illness in a child. While we controlled for many factors in our analysis, the association we detected may also be confounded by other factors such as the wider social support available to a family, or their household income.’

Readers' comments (3)

  • Vinci Ho

    The world has become more complicated and contradictory. Social mobility is restricted with more hindrance to young people up the ladder . Technology advances but has not necessarily provided more stability to our societies. On the contrary, our jobs are to be threatened by more intelligent machines.
    I have more concerns , these days of the interpersonal skills and crisis coping mechanism of our younger generations.
    Without doubt , I am seeing more young people every day with abnormal GAD7 and PHQ9 scores , needing help .

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  • if you look at the data its not that significant in actual numbers and more likely to be an issue and statistically relevant with children with chronic long term conditions where parents are more likely to be depressed anyway. numbers are based on one practice in one part of London. The figures don't allow you to see if parents have one condition or multiple ones, some of the statistical data suggests having chronic arthritis is associated with more appointments but the study does not allow you to know how many of these parents were also depressed.

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  • plus out of 6124 children in study 743 parents had depression, diagnosis based on read coding, households 3373 gives a depression rate of 22% if you assume one parent with depression only, no comparison figures for adults same age and no children

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