Nearly half a million more adults on antidepressants in England

Topics covered: Department of Health and Social Care, NHS, NHS England

Nearly half a million more adults in England are now taking antidepressants compared with the previous year, according to NHS data. It is now the sixth year in a row that there has been an increase in both patients and prescriptions for antidepressants. Alexa Knight, who is in charge of policy at the charity Rethink Mental Illness, said:

“The fallout from the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis mean we should undoubtedly be concerned around the current pressures on people’s mental health.”

The upwards trend – who is it affecting most?

From 2021-22, there was a 5% rise in the number of adults receiving them – from 7.9 million in the previous 12 months to 8.3 million. However, there was a rise of 8% in youngsters taking the medication from 10,994 to 11,878 among 10 to 14-year olds. This also increased in the older teenage category with 166,922 to 180,455 in the age range of 15 to 19 year olds. The data also identified a trend finding women were also twice as likely to be prescribed antidepressants as men. These figures may be concerning to GPs. However, Alexa Knight of Rethink Mental Illness believes,

“…the rising number of antidepressant prescriptions could also be a welcome indicator that people feel more comfortable seeking support when they need it.”

She concluded that it is important people are offered different treatments based on the severity of their depression. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (“NICE”) released a guideline in 23 November 2021 explaining that people with mild depression should be first offered exercise or therapy rather than antidepressants at first instance. It was also recommended by NICE that individuals suffering from depression participate in group classes in meditation, behavioural therapy, and individual counselling sessions. These measures will curb the recent trend of rising dependence on antidepressant drugs.

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