Job fears fuel rise in anti-depressant use

JO MOIR
Last updated 05:00 13/04/2013

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Mounting financial pressure and job insecurity are driving more Kiwis to anti-depressants. Thirty-two per cent more people are taking the drugs than six years ago, according to Pharmac figures.

In 2007, 315,117 people were on medication, compared with the 414,465 being treated for depression as of June last year.

University of Otago Medical School psychiatrist Pete Ellis said the global financial crisis was a huge part of the problem for those he treats in Wellington.

"The impact of the global financial crisis is resulting in people being uncertain about their jobs, and then there's the effects of people losing their jobs.

"This pressure has been significant in recent years."

The number of anti-depressant prescriptions has increased by 16 per cent in the past five years.

Professor Ellis said social factors had a large bearing on people's moods and levels of depression.

"If you're short of money, it's more likely you'll have a row with your partner, and consequently you feel more isolated and burdened and that all adds up."

Housing stresses, such as paying rent, or trying to buy a home, were all stressful and added pressure to people's lives, he said.

The historical divide between men and women being treated for depression remains. Ellis said about twice as many women were prescribed anti-depressants as men.

This is backed up by Pharmac statistics that show 270,814 women were prescribed anti-depressants last year, compared with 143,651 men.

"Depression has been around for a long time and has always been a serious problem, but people are more aware of it now and more willing to talk openly about it," he said.

Wellington doctor Arlene Smyth said women visited health services more frequently because of their children for vaccinations and for screening programmes such as smear tests.

She said health professionals were increasingly asking more questions about their patients' home environments and the pressures they were feeling.

The higher number of anti-depressant prescriptions in Wellington could be attributed to the demographic of the capital city, she said.

"People tend to gravitate to Wellington for work, which often means they have less support when times get tough.

"Wellington people are also more aware of what's going on in the economy, and having a large number of public service workers where cuts are a reality means they're more exposed to the downturn."

NUMBERS PRESCRIBED ANTI-DEPRESSANTS

2007: Men 104,435, women 210,682

2008: Men 117,354, women 230,663

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2009: Men 123,427, women 238,918

2010: Men 133,151, women 253,106

2011: Men 139,403, women 264,533

2012: Men 143,651, women 270,814

- The Dominion Post

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