There has been a rise in the number of people in England taking antidepressants, new figures show.
According to NHS data, thousands more adults are now taking the drugs, with an increase seen among children and adolescents as well.
In 2021/22, some 8.3 million patients received an antidepressant drug, 6% more than the previous year when the figure was 7.9 million.
It is the sixth consecutive year that there has been an increase in both patients and prescriptions. In 2016/17, some 7.1 million people were taking antidepressants.
Overall, approximately 83.4 million antidepressant medications were prescribed in 2021/22, an increase of 5% from the previous year.
As for children, some 11,878 young people aged 10 to 14 took drugs in 2021/22, as did 180,455 aged 15 to 19.
This is up from 10,994 and 166,922 in the previous year (covering the first year of the pandemic).
In the previous year, 2019/20, some 11,618 children aged 10 to 14 took the drugs, as did 174,590 aged 15 to 19.
The data also showed that women were about twice as likely to be prescribed antidepressants as men, with 5.5 million women prescribed the drugs in 2021/22 compared to 2.8 million men.
Alexa Knight, associate director of policy and practice at Rethink Mental Illness, said: “The fallout from the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis means we should certainly be concerned about the current pressures on people’s mental health, but the increasing number of prescriptions for antidepressants could also be a positive indicator that people feel more comfortable seeking support when they need it.
We know that the broader circumstances of a person’s life, such as housing, employment, and finances, can have a significant impact on mental health.
Alexa Knight, Rethinking Mental Illness
“However, it is crucial that people are offered a choice of treatments appropriate to their needs and the severity of their symptoms, including, for example, prompt access to talk therapy, so that they can explore what works best for them. .
“We are also concerned that antidepressants and medications used to treat psychosis are more likely to be prescribed in deprived areas.
“We know that the broader circumstances of an individual’s life, such as their housing, employment and finances, can have a significant impact on mental health.
“Ensuring support in these areas can help a person recover but more importantly prevent someone from deteriorating into a crisis in the first place.”
The NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) also released figures showing a slight increase in dementia drug prescriptions and the number of dementia patients, to an estimated 4.07 million items prescribed in 2021/22. .
It comes after the National Institute for Excellence in Health and Care (Nice) said in November that people suffering from mild depression should be offered a choice of exercise or therapy instead of antidepressants.
The agency recommended group classes in areas such as meditation or behavioral therapy, or opt for individual counseling sessions.
The Nice draft guideline told doctors: “Do not routinely offer antidepressant medications as first-line treatment for less severe depression, unless that is the person’s preference.”