NHS statistics show continuing rise in antidepressant prescribing

New data released by the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) show that the number of prescriptions for antidepressant drugs in England has increased more than three-fold over the past six years.

Close up image of the back of a prescription with a pen and blister pack of tablets and a few loose tablets lying on top of it
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According to new statistics released by the NHSBSA, an estimated 21 million antidepressant drugs were prescribed in England between January and March 2022, an increase of 4.06% compared with the same quarter in 2021, with an overall annual increase of 5.07% from 2020/21 to 2021/22.

Sixth consecutive annual rise

The figures show that the number of antidepressant prescriptions in England has now risen for six consecutive years, from 61.9 million items between April 2015 and March 2016 to 83.4 million items between April 2021 and March 2022, equating to an overall increase of 34.8%.

The statistics also show a corresponding rise in the number of patients who received at least one prescription for an antidepressant drug, up from 7.87 million people in 2020/21 to 8.32 million people in 2021/22, a rise which, in common with number of antidepressant prescriptions, has also occurred for the sixth consecutive year.

Use of 'other antidepressants' rising

The largest percentage increases in prescriptions relate to the classes 'other antidepressants' (63.3% increase from 2015/16 to 2021/22) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs; 35.2% increase over the same time period). Conversely, the number of prescriptions for monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) has declined by almost 60% over the past six years.

The number of people aged 17 and under who received at least one antidepressant item also saw an annual increase of 9.17%, from 65,300 in 2020/21 to 71,300 in 2021/22.

Commenting on the statistics, a spokesperson for the Royal College of Psychiatrists said: 'Antidepressants are an effective evidence-based treatment and these figures need to be interpreted carefully as antidepressants can be prescribed for a range of health conditions.'

'There are complex reasons why prescriptions for antidepressants are rising, which include progress on diagnosis and support for people with depression, changes in dosages, and the range of conditions they are prescribed for.'

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