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Depression

Updated 04 December 2018

Brexit had Brits turning to antidepressants, study suggests

After the 'Brexit' vote in England, the volume of antidepressants prescribed increased more than 10% compared to other classes of drugs.

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An increase in prescriptions for antidepressants followed the 2016 "Brexit" vote in England, a new study reports.

This increase may have stemmed from increased uncertainty in some people following the unexpected vote in favour of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, according to the researchers.

For the study, the researchers compared monthly prescribing data for antidepressants in England with other classes of drugs not used to treat mood disorders. They included insulin, muscle relaxants and medications for anaemia, gout, thyroid problems, diabetes and cholesterol.

An immediate shock

After the June 2016 Brexit vote, the volume of antidepressants prescribed increased 13.4% compared to the other classes of drugs.

The study only observed an association between the vote and the amount of antidepressants given, without proving cause and effect.

The research was published online recently in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. Sotiris Vandoros, a senior lecturer in health economics at King's College London, led the investigation.

"Our study focused on an event that was unexpected, leading to an immediate shock. From a more general perspective, this paper shows that shocks nationally can affect health, and that uncertainty about, and expectations of, future effects can have an impact on health in the short term," the researchers noted in a journal news release.

"Policies supporting mental health should be intensified in periods of uncertainty," they suggested.

Because this was an observational study, the researchers said the "results should be interpreted with caution". They added that further study is needed to examine "whether there is any short-term relationship between the referendum result and mental health".

Image credit: iStock

 

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Depression expert

Michael Simpson has been a senior psychiatric academic, researcher, and Professor in several countries, having worked at London University in the UK; McMaster University in Canada; Temple University in Philadelphia, USA.; and the University of Natal in South Africa.

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