Anti-depressant prescriptions soared after Brexit vote, study findsRuth Mabhiza
Researchers found antidepressant prescribing continued to increase after the referendum, but at a slower pace than noticed in previous years
Antidepressant prescriptions have been linked to the Brexit referendum result (Photo: Getty)
The number of people being prescribed antidepressants has soared since the Brexit referendum in 2016, a new study has revealed.
Compared with other medications studied, there was a significant rise in the amount of antidepressants doled out during the month after Britain opted to leave the European Union.
Experts said that the increase in mental health issues could be due to people not knowing what the future holds, but stressed the results were not 100 per cent conclusive and should be treated with “caution”.
Uncertainty and upheaval
But they, nonetheless, suggested that more should be done to promote mental wellbeing during times of “economic uncertainty or political upheaval”.
Researchers said that national events, such as elections and financial crises, can affect mental health – so they set out to examine whether there was a rise in antidepressant prescriptions in England after the Brexit vote.
Remain supporters react at results of the EU referendum are announced at the Royal Festival Hall on June 24, 2016 in London (Getty Images)
Writing in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, the authors suggested the finding may be attributed to “increased uncertainty for some parts of the population”.
Their study examined whether prescriptions for antidepressants increased after the referendum result, benchmarking them against other drugs.
13 PER CENT INCREASE COMPARED WITH OTHER DRUGS
Using GP practice prescribing data, the authors from King’s College London and Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in the US compiled the number of defined daily doses per capita every month in each of the 326 voting areas in England between 2011-2016.
They compared antidepressant prescriptions to prescriptions for iron and anti-gout drugs – chosen because they were “unlikely to be associated with uncertainty and depression”.
The researchers found that antidepressant prescribing continued to increase after the referendum but at a slower pace than noticed in previous years.
They said the growth could be attributed to increased uncertainty for some “but it does not rule out a possible improvement in mood for others”.
Possible alternative explanations
“There are alternative possible explanations, and we cannot be sure that this relative increase in antidepressants is due to the referendum result,” they added, stressing that the results should be treated with “caution”.
Meanwhile, effects were not different between areas which largely voted to leave or remain in the EU.
“This relative increase in antidepressant prescribing after the referendum may be attributed to increased uncertainty for certain parts of the population, but does not rule out an improvement in mood for others,” the researchers concluded.
“Alternatively, some other factor – for example, distraction, might have contributed to a decrease in the control therapeutic classes. A possible policy implication is that programmes for the promotion of mental health may need to be intensified during periods of uncertainty.”
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