Sunderland named depression capital as antidepressant figures released

A GP writing out a prescription. Credit Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
A GP writing out a prescription. Credit Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
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The North East prescribes more antidepressants than anywhere else in England – with Sunderland right at the very top of the regional league table.

Our region prescribed, on average, 1.73 prescriptions of antidepressants per person in 2016, higher than the England average of 1.16 and the highest region in the country.

Map of anti-depressant prescriptions.

Map of anti-depressant prescriptions.

Last year in Sunderland, 1.99 prescriptions for antidepressant drugs were issued per head, according to research from database company EXASOL, using NHS figures.

This figure puts the city second nationally only to Blackpool – the only district in England where more than two prescriptions per person per year were given out by GPs.

South Tyneside – at 1.77 scripts per head – came fourth behind Durham and Gateshead.

Hartlepool came bottom of the North East list with a still-high – compared to elsewhere in the country – 1.38 prescriptions per head of the population.

According to the study, English pharmacies handed over nine million prescriptions in 1991, which by 2001 had risen to 24.3million.

In 2011 it was 46million and we have now reached 64million prescriptions.

There is a large regional variation across the country , which EXASOL claim shows a clear link to deprivation in the North and East of England.

EXASOL analysed 774 million rows of data released by the Government’s NHS Digital and sourced from the NHS Business Services Authority.

The data captures every GP prescription dispensed at all pharmacies across England in the past six years.

The organisation’s chief marketing officer, Sean Jackson, said: “When analysing the data, we can see that the prescribing of anti-depressants has increased by a large amount in recent years.

“However, this is only one part of the story; when we delve deeper, we find that the data can uncover further information such as geographic differences across the country.

“With the right data and the right technology, you can turn any problem into a data problem.

“People suffering from mental health problems need support and respect, these insights can direct help to the right places and it highlights where more resources are necessary.

“By uncovering insights using big data, it shows the factual reality of the problem.

“However, to be able to analyse such enormous data-sets requires the right tool for the job. We hope the findings will help to raise awareness of this important issue.”

A spokeswoman for NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said: “Antidepressants, like all medicines, are prescribed on the basis of the individual patient’s needs as assessed by an appropriate medical professional.

“We know that factors like unemployment and poverty increase rates of depression, so it’s not a great surprise to see that there’s higher use of treatments for depression in areas where these are bigger problems.”