High number of anti-depressants prescribed as more seek help for mental health problems
- Credit: PA
New figures have found health providers issued more anti-depressant prescriptions in Suffolk last year than ever before.
Waveney saw the second highest level handed out per person in Suffolk and Essex, with an average of 1.59. The national average is 1.16.
The rise is said to have a 'strong link' to deprivation, while national analysis shows the East of England has some of the highest rates in the country – particularly in coastal towns.
Suffolk GPs say they are aware of the link within these areas.
But the increase is also being treated as a positive sign that more people are talking about mental health, and seeking treatment for it.
With more anti-depressants being prescribed in Tendring than anywhere else in East Anglia, the Suffolk districts of Waveney and Babergh are not far behind.
Latest figures reveal health services across Suffolk and Essex gave out higher numbers of anti-depressant prescriptions per person in 2016 than ever before.
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Researchers at EXASOL, who carried out the study, believe the new data shows a 'clear link' to deprivation in the east of England.
Their figures reveal some coastal areas commonly associated with economic deprivation prescribe the most anti-depressants.
Tendring, home to the UK's most deprived town of Jaywick, gave out the equivalent of 1.78 anti-depressant prescriptions per person last year.
With Waveney handing out the second highest number across both counties with 1.59 per person, Paul Driscoll, chairman and medical director at the Suffolk GP Federation, said doctors are aware that significantly increased levels of mental illness are associated with socioeconomic deprivation.
'This is certainly true of some of our coastal towns,' he said.
'The increase is also multifactorial, associated with increased awareness and diagnosis of anxiety and depression and lower thresholds of treatment, with modern well-tolerated anti-depressants. There is also increased patient demand for treatment.'
Bosses at clinical commissioning groups covering east and west Suffolk said patients have a 'complex mix of circumstances' – as shown by the variation in prescribing rates.
But they moved to reassure people that these issues are being tackled by both CCGs and their partners, such as the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust.
A spokesman said: 'These figures could indicate that people are more willing to discuss mental health issues and that GPs are continuing to better identify and appropriately treat mental health conditions.
'The prescribing of anti-depressants can result in improvement to people's mental wellbeing and GPs will continue to prescribe them where appropriate.'
For advice, visit www.nhs.uk