One in six adults in England was prescribed antidepressants last year – nearly half a million more than in 2015 – according to the latest numbers.
The national figures, covering the NHS as a whole, saw a total of 7.3 million people given at least one antidepressant prescription in 2017.
This included more than 70,000 people under the age of 18 and nearly 2,000 children under 11 years old.
The data, obtained by The Times via a freedom of information request, also found that:
- Those aged over 60 were twice as likely as those in their twenties to be on antidepressants
- One in five people in towns such as Blackpool and Great Yarmouth was prescribed antidepressants last year, while in London the figure was less than one in 10.
But the RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘It’s important that these figures aren’t automatically seen as a bad thing. They may indicate that more patients now feel able to disclose mental health problems, and seek medical care and that negative stigma too often associated with mental health conditions is reducing in society.’
She continued: ‘NHS England’s GP Forward View pledged for every GP practice to have access to one of 3,000 new mental health therapists. We need this, and its other promises – including £2.4bn extra a year for general practice and 5,000 more GPs – to be delivered as a matter of urgency, so that we can continue to provide the best possible mental health care to our patients.’
This comes after GPs were told to avoid prescribing antidepressants to children and adolescents where possible, after research found that use of SSRIs and SNRIs is linked with suicidal behaviour.