By Christian Duffin
Prescriptions for antidepressants have risen by 40% over the past four years, new figures show, but experts claims this may not be due to a rise in depressive illness.
The reported 40% rise in the number of anti-depressant prescriptions over the past four years, obtained by the BBC from the NHS Prescription Services, has been widely reported today as a symptom of the economic downturn.
However, others argue that the rise reflects GP starting to prescribe anti-depressants in recent years for hot flushes and pre-menstrual tension.
Dr George Moncrieff, a GP in Bicester, Oxfordshire, said: ‘Prozac was just being prescribed for depression ten years ago, but now GPs are doing them for hot flushes and PMT. It doesn't necessarily mean we are making more diagnoses for depression. The media has got its facts wrong if it thinks that is main reason.'
RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada, disagrees. Speaking earlier today, she said: ‘Of course, in times of economic problems we would expect mental health problems to worsen, and GPs are seeing more people coming in with debts racking up, or who have lost their job and are cancelling their holidays. They feel guilty that they can't provide for their family and these things can often act as a trigger for depression.'
The prescribing rise was also likely to be a result of increased awareness among GPs about depression and improved skills in diagnosis, she added.