Happy pill prescriptions soar to 50m as job and money fears grow
Rise in demand is believed to coincide with job losses following economic downturn
A quarter of Britons are thought to suffer from mental illness every year
Soaring numbers of Britons are turning to antidepressants and other pills to combat anxiety, figures show.
Last year nearly 50million prescriptions were handed out, a rise of a quarter in the past four years.
The most commonly prescribed drugs include citalopram hydrobromide, amitriptyline, Prozac and diazepam.
Troubled: Rising stress levels are believed to have triggered the increase in prescriptions of pills
Experts claim the rise has been partly triggered by job losses and financial woes caused by the economic crisis.
But others have also suggested that people are more inclined to seek out help as there is now less stigma attached to depression and anxiety-related disorders.
The figures were uncovered by the Co-operative Pharmacy based on results of Freedom of Information requests to 150 Primary Care Trusts in England.
They reveal that 49,864,399 items were prescribed for depression or anxiety in 2010/11, up from 39,556,255 in 2007/8.
But while the numbers handed out have gone up, the costs to the NHS have actually fallen as GPs are prescribing fewer brand-name drugs. Instead they are using so-called generic drugs, which are essentially the same as the label versions but much cheaper.
Last year the NHS spent 258,360,117 on the drugs, down from 291,583,854, according to the figures.
As the number of unemployed increase the demand for the pill has risen
Around a quarter of Britons are thought to suffer from some form of mental illness every year, although experts say most will not seek help from their GP or counsellors.
The most common forms are depression or anxiety disorders and they are often triggered by bereavement, marital breakdown or other emotional events.
Mandeep Mudhar, NHS business director at the Co-operative Pharmacy, said: ‘Our research has shown that the NHS is getting greater value for money but, worryingly, prescription items have risen at an alarming rate, up 26 per cent in just four years. It is clear more people are seeking medical help to treat depression and anxiety.
‘However, there are many more people who do not share their experiences. If people do feel depressed we urge them to seek medical help.’
Emer O’Neill, chief executive of Depression Alliance, said: ‘For some people depression just happens, but for others it is triggered by stressful events, for example losing a job, property or bereavement.
‘These uncertain economic times are linked to an increase in the number of people with the illness.
‘However, this is just the tip of the iceberg, as for every person diagnosed with depression there are many more who suffer in silence.
‘Getting an early diagnosis, finding the right support mechanisms and treatment for each individual is crucial to beating the illness.
‘At this time of year, many individuals can feel lonely or isolated but there are a range of support groups available to help with depression.’