Antidepressant use in children rises by 28%
A new study has shown a 28% rise in the prescription of antidepressants to children over the last decade.
The research by Swansea University found a significant increase in antidepressant prescription to young children and adolescents aged between six and 18 years old, despite a decline in depression diagnoses by over a quarter.
While diagnoses of depression declined, symptoms of depression in patients more than doubled.
The research also found that antidepressants were given to children who had no symptoms of depression, but rather issues such as anxiety and pain.
Dr Ann John, GP and leading author of the study, said: “These findings add to the growing debate over increasing prescribing of anti-depressants to children and young people.”
“The main issue is whether they being prescribed with enough cause. The rise in prescribing may reflect a genuine increase in depression and its symptoms, or increased awareness and better treatment by GPs, or poor access to psychological therapies and specialist care, or even increased help-seeking.”
Dr John noted that the transition into adulthood “can result in a normal developmental range of emotional responses- stress, loneliness, sadness and frustration,” which shouldn’t be confused be with depression.
“It can be hard to distinguish between what is emotional turmoil and what warrants a mental health diagnosis in a young person,” she said.
“We need to ensure GPs are trained to really understand the lives and moods of young people, as well as knowing what warning signs they should look out for.”
The study was carried out over data from 358,000 patients in Wales and was published in Psychological Medicine.