Revealed: how deprivation has sparked rise in use of antidepressants in Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 12:34 05 February 2020 | UPDATED: 10:15 07 February 2020

Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Groups prescribe more antidepressants per 1,000 registered patients than the national average. PHOTO: Getty Images

Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Groups prescribe more antidepressants per 1,000 registered patients than the national average. PHOTO: Getty Images

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Average monthly prescription rates for antidepressant medication across Norfolk have risen by 20pc between January 2015 and November 2019, highlighting the “indisputable link between deprivation and mental health”.

Of all the Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Groups, North Norfolk had the biggest increase in the prescription of antidepressant medication at 22.6pc, while Norwich had the smallest at 18.22pc.

The rate at which antidepressants were prescribed per every 1,000 patients over the last year is equally high, with all Norfolk CCGs except Norwich ranking within the top 30 - out of a list of 191.

North Norfolk was the 9th highest prescriber of antidepressant medication, West Norfolk 14th, Great Yarmouth and Waveney 24th and South Norfolk 30th. Norwich was not far behind.

According to Dr David Nelson, consultant psychiatrist for the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), these figures reinforce the link between "deprivation, poor physical health and poor mental health".

He said: "In areas with high deprivation you'll find that it isn't one thing which tips someone over the edge but a concoction of different factors.

"It might be unemployment, poor housing or finances, topped off with a lack of physical exercise due to less opportunities."

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The country's highest antidepressant prescribers were almost exclusively in the North East, North West and East of England, as well as seaside areas like Blackpool, Wirral and the Fylde and Wyre.

Here, high antidepressant prescription rates match up with Government data showing high levels of deprivation - many of which have neighbourhoods in the top 10pc most deprived in the country.

Sunderland had the highest rate of increase in antidepressant presriptions between 2015-2019 at almost 40pc, while the London CCGs had the lowest overall rates.

Luton had the smallest increase on the list at just 5.91pc.

For one Yarmouth development charity, Seachange Arts, overturning the lack of arts and culture provision in areas of high deprivation - and especially seaside towns - is one effective way of tackling depression.

Joe Mackintosh, Chief Executive for SeaChange Arts, said: "Social isolation is especially prevalent in places like Yarmouth, Blackpool and Skegness, which during the 20th century were at the forefront of leisure provision nationwide.

"In Yarmouth, we're putting on free events and arts projects that will ultimately give people something to do."

In a statement, a spokesman for the Clinical Commissioning Groups of Norfolk and Waveney said: "While antidepressants are of proven benefit to many patients, no-one wants to be reliant on any medication long-term, and where possible GPs should explore alternatives like talking therapies."

The data for this report was sourced through

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